The Owl Pages

Sokoke Scops Owl ~ Otus ireneae


The Sokoke Scops Owl is a very small owl with small ear-tufts. Grey, rufous and dark brown morphs are known to exist, as well as intermediates.

Photo Gallery (3 pictures)

  • Sokoke Scops Owl
  • Sokoke Scops Owl
  • Sokoke Scops Owl

Sound Gallery

Typical call - Malindi, Kilifi, Kenya. August 2013. CC Ralf Wendt.


Description: Grey & dark brown morph: The facial disc is pale greyish-brown or pale rufous-buff, with faint, slightly darker concentric lines. Eyes are pale yellow, and the bill and cere pale yellow with a pinkish wash.
The upperparts are greyish or dark brown, with the crown streaked blackish. The small erectile ear-tufts are mottled and spotted light and dark. The nape is spotted light and dark, while the mantle is mottled and spotted light and dark. The tail is barred dark on a slightly paler ground colour. The primaries are barred white and dark brown, the inner primaries and secondaries being paler. The scapulars have whitish spots on the outer webs, forming a white stripe on the folded wing.
Underparts are greyish-brown with black-tipped white spots and dark vermiculations. Toes are pale greyish-brown, while the claws are dark brown with blackish tips.
Rufous morph: Similar to above, but the ground colour above and below is bright rufous.

Size: Length 16-18cm. Wing length 112-124mm. Tail length 60-66mm. Weight 45-55g.

Habits: The Sokoke Scops Owl is a nocturnal bird, roosting during the day in the lower canopy of trees.

Voice: A series of 5-9 or more high whistled notes at about 1.5 notes per second - goohk-goohk-goohk-goohk-goohk. This series is repeated at intervals of several seconds.

Hunting & Food: This owl feeds on insects, mainly beetles, but including crickets, phasmids, etc.

Breeding: The breeding habits of the Sokoke Scops Owl are unknown. Likely nests in tree holes.

Habitat: Forest and Woodland with trees taller than 3-4m. Ranges from 50 to 170m above sea-level, and from 200 to 400m above sea-level in Tanzania.

Distribution: Endemic to the Sokoke-Arabuku Forest near the south-eastern coast of Kenya, and the East Usambara Mountains in Northeast Tanzania.

Range of Sokoke Scops Owl (Otus ireneae)
Range of the Sokoke Scops Owl Otus ireneae

Status: Listed as Endangered by Birdlife International.

Original Description: Ripley, S. Dillon. 1966. Ibis, Vol. 108, p. 136.

References: (may contain affiliate links)
BirdLife International. 2020. "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species". IUCN.
Boyer and Hume. 1991. "Owls of the World". BookSales Inc.
del Hoyo, Elliott & Sargatal. 1999. "Handbook of the Birds of the World: Barn Owls to Hummingbirds". Buteo Books.
Duncan, James R.. 2003. "Owls of the World: Their Lives, Behavior and Survival". Firefly Books.
International Ornithological Congress. 2023. "IOC World Bird List - Owls".
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.
Otus ireneae at Xeno-canto.

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

Page by Deane Lewis. Last updated 2020-10-03. Copyright Information.