The Owl Pages

Lesser Sooty Owl ~ Tyto multipunctata


The Lesser Sooty Owl is a dark, medium-sized barn owl with no ear-tufts and a very short tail. It is sometimes called the Silver Owl.

Photo Gallery (3 pictures)

  • Lesser Sooty Owl
  • Lesser Sooty Owl
  • Lesser Sooty Owl

Sound Gallery

Bomb whistle - North Queensland, Australia. © John Young.
Shrieks - Mt. Lewis, Queensland, Australia. November 2013. CC Marc Anderson.
Trilling - North Queensland, Australia. © John Young.


Description: The facial disc is whitish near the outer edge, shading into sooty-blackish towards and around the eyes. The edge of the rim itself is dark sooty with a few tiny white flecks. Eyes are black, and the bill pale greyish-brown.
Upperparts from the crown to the lower back and to the wing-coverts are sooty-grey, densely spotted and dotted silvery-white, with the spots becoming rather large on the back and wing-coverts. The wings and tail are grey with several darker bars.
Underparts are paler than the upperparts, and boldly spotted and mottled pale grey and blackish, and also with chevrons, especially on the breast. Underwings are pale greyish.
Legs are feathered greyish to the base of the bare toes, which are coloured greyish-brown. Claws are dark greyish-brown.

Size: Length 31-38cm. Wing length 237-263mm. Weight 430-540g. The female is heavier and larger than the male.

Habits: The Lesser Sooty Owl is a strictly nocturnal bird. Hides during the day in dense foliage, between tangles of aerial roots, in all kinds of crevices, or beneath overhanging banks. Hunts in clearings and near roads, but also inside forest.

Voice: A piercing downscale whistle, which can sound like a shriek at close quarters. This is similar to the Sooty Owl, but less powerful, and quite often with a slight step in the downward progression of the call. There are also a variety of trills and chirrups associated with breeding.

Hunting & Food: Lesser Sooty Owls hunt mainly small mammals, but also take insects and some birds. They generally hunt from low perches and take prey on the ground.

Breeding: The season is very variable and dependant on rain. Eggs are laid in any month, but most records of laying are from March to May. Pairs usually become more noisy at the start of the season with frequent 'bomb whistling'. Sometimes several pairs may be within earshot of each other, their calling clearly territorial. Pairs perch close together with high-pitched trilling. The nest is usually a large hollow in the trunk or a main limb of a living tree, often Rose Gum. The female may occupy the hollow for many weeks before laying, going out briefly only once or twice each night. They have territories as small as 50 hectares and some nests have been recorded only 400 metres apart. Nest hollows are often very high above the ground, up to 30 metres.
Generally 2 eggs are laid, but sometimes 1. They are dull white rounded ovals of about 41mm x 36-39mm. Incubation is 40-42 days and the young have downs of sooty grey. Fledging is at about 3 months. Newly fledged young are indistinguishable from adults and remain in the breeding territory at least for several weeks and are fed by the parents.

Habitat: Rainforest and wet eucalypt forest with tall trees and hollow trunks. Ranges from sea-level up to about 300m.

Distribution: Northeastern Australia from Princess Charlotte Bay south to around Ingham in north Queensland. There have also been sightings recorded on Hinchinbrook Island.

Range of Lesser Sooty Owl (Tyto multipunctata)
Range of the Lesser Sooty Owl Tyto multipunctata

Status: Probably threatened.

Original Description: Mathews, Gregory Macalister. 1912. Novitates Zoologicae (Novit. Zool.) 18: p 257.

Boyer and Hume. 1991. "Owls of the World". BookSales Inc.
Hollands, David. 1991. "Birds of the Night". Reed Books.
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.
Trounson, Donald and Molly. 1996. "Australian Birds - Simply Classified". New Holland Publishers.

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

Page by Deane Lewis. Last updated 2015-09-17.