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Madagascar Red Owl - Tyto soumagnei

Also known as Soumagnes Grass Owl, Madagascar Grass Owl

[For help with terms used in the description, see parts of an owl. For general characteristics common to most owl species, see owl physiology.]

Description: Similar to a smallish Barn Owl, with an overall ochre-reddish to yellow-ochre colour. The upperparts have have fine dark spots, which are larger towards the tail and on the wings. Underparts are similar with scattered, very fine dark spots. The facial disc is white, with a brownish tinge between the lower edge of the eyes and the base of the light grey bill. The rim of the facial disc is brown. The eyes are blackish.
Feet are smoky-grey with greyish-brown claws.

Size: Length 27.5cm (10.8").  Wing length 20.9cm (8.2"). Weight 323-435g (11.4-15.4oz)

Habits: Little known, probably similar to the Barn Owl. They are strictly nocturnal birds.

Voice: Loud hissing screech of about 1.5 seconds - similar to barn owl, but with more energy, and dropping in pitch towards the end. There is also a wok-wok-wok call that is believed to be an alarm call.

Hunting & Food: Hunts along forest edges and fence-lines, also hunts in rice fields. Eats small rodents and insects.

Breeding: Little known - Nests in tree cavities. Probably similar breeding habits to the Barn Owl. In the only recorded nest site, the adults nested in July, at the end of the rainy season. Young were fledged at about 10 weeks of age, and left their parents territory 4 months later. It was suspected that only two eggs were laid.

Habitat: Humid rainforests in Northeast Madagascar. Often found on forest edge, clearings, rice paddies and secondary scrub.

Distribution: Endemic to Madagascar.

Distribution of Madagascar Red Owl - Tyto soumagnei
Distribution of the Madagascar Red Owl Tyto soumagnei

Status: Rare and Endangered.

Original Description: Grandidier, Alfred. 1877. Comptes Rendus Hebdomadaire des séance de l’académie des Sciences. Paris. 85, p. 1282.


Irwin, Mitchell T.; and Samonds, Karen E. 2002. "Range extension of the Madagascar Red Owl Tyto soumagnei in Madagascar: the case of a rare, widespread species?". Ibis, 144, 680-683
König, Weick and Becking. 1999. "Owls: A Guide to the Owls of the World". Yale University Press
Thorstrom, Russel & de Roland, Lily Arison Rene. . "First nest record and nesting behaviour of the Madagascar Red Owl Tyto soumagnei". The Peregrine Fund
Thorstrom, Russel; Hart, Julian & Watson, Richard. 1997. "New record, ranging behaviour, vocalization and food of the Madagascar Red Owl Tyto soumagnei". IBIS issue 139 477-481

Page Information:

Page compiled by . Page last updated 2013-05-28 Owl Species ID: 010.120.000

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