The Owl Pages

Madagascar Red Owl ~ Tyto soumagnei


The Madagascar Red Owl is a medium-sized owl with no ear-tufts. It is also known as the Soumagnes Grass Owl or the Madagascar Grass Owl.

Photo Gallery (4 pictures)

  • Madagascar Red Owl
  • Madagascar Red Owl
  • Madagascar Red Owl
  • Madagascar Red Owl


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 28-30cm. Wing length 210-230mm. Weight 323-435g.

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.

Range of Madagascar Red Owl (Tyto soumagnei)
Range 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, Claus & Weick, Friedhelm. 2008. "Owls: A Guide to the Owls of the World (Second Edition)". Yale University Press.
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.

See also: Other owls from Africa, Genus: Tyto.

Page by Deane Lewis. Last updated 2016-05-24.