Eastern grass-owl

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The eastern grass-owl (Tyto longimembris) belongs to Tytonidae, the family of barn-owls.

These owl species are distributed in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Philippines, New Guinea and Australia. The eastern grass-owl species are medium-sized birds with characteristic heart-shaped faces. There are five recognized subspecies.

Taxonomy of Eastern grass-owl

  • Scientific Name: Tyto longimembris
  • Common Name: Eastern grass-owl
  • French: Effraie de prairie; German: Graseule; Spanish: Lechuza patilarga;
  • Other names: Australian grass owl; Strix Longimembris Jerdon, 1839;
  • Family: Tytonidae › Strigiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: (Jerdon, 1839)
The recognized five subspecies of Tyto longimembris are: T. l. longimembris (Jerdon, 1839), T. l. papuensis E. J. O. Hartert, 1929, T. l. chinensis E. J. O. Hartert, 1929, T. l. amauronota (Cabanis, 1872) and T. l. pithecops (Swinhoe, 1866). T. capensis is closely related to T. longimembris and it was even considered conspecific to eastern grass-owl.


The eastern grass-owl is a medium sized bird, the male measuring 30 to 35 cm in length and weighing 250 to 400 grams. The female owl measures 35 to 40 cm in length and weighs 300 to 500 grams. The wingspan is 100 to 120 cm.

They have heart-shaped facial disc. It is white in males and pale orange buff in females. The upper parts are brown and buff and the underparts are very pale orange with heavy spotting.

The wings are barred dark brown and buff and have silvery spotting. The undertail is white with narrow gray barring. The wing tips are darker.

The dark brown eyes are relatively small for an owl and have black tear marks. Their call is a loud, hissing, rasping screeching sound.
Birds of India - Tyto longimembris
Indian birds - Eastern grass-owl - Tyto longimembris

Indian birds -Eastern grass-owl - Tyto longimembris
Birds of India - Eastern grass-owl - Tyto longimembris
Birds of India - Female Eastern grass-owl - Tyto longimembris
Indian birds - Eastern grass-owl (female) - Tyto longimembris
Indian birds - Eastern grass-owl - Tyto longimembris
Birds of India - Eastern grass-owl - Tyto longimembris


The eastern grass-owl inhabits open grasslands, tall grass jungle, coastal heath, savanna, swamps and agricultural lands. They make tunnels through the dense grass or swamp vegetation which serve both for roosting and nesting.

Diet and feeding habits

These owl species are nocturnal and hunt their prey in the night. Their diet mainly consists of small mammals, particularly rodents. They also feed on insects and birds. They glide and hover about five meters above the ground.

On locating the prey with their acute hearing, they sweep on the prey. After catching the prey with their strong talons, they kill it and feed on it on the ground or carry it to the roost or nest.


The breeding season of these owl species corresponds to the local weather and season. In India these birds usually breed during October to December whereas in China they breed during September to January.

These owl species nest on the open areas, under dense grass or sedge. The nest is a scraped hollow padded with twigs and leaves. The female owl incubates the eggs and the male hunts and feeds the female and chicks in the night.


The owl subspecies T. l. longimembris is distributed in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesian islands (Sumba, Flores, Sulawesi and Tukangbesi) and Australia.

The subspecies T. l. papuensis is distributed in New Guinea. The subspecies T. l. chinensis is distributed in southeast China and Vietnam.

The subspecies T. l. amauronota is distributed in Philippines. The subspecies T. l. pithecops is distributed in Taiwan.

Movement and migration patterns

The eastern grass-owl is a resident species and may make local movements for feeding and breeding. The juvenile owls may make dispersal movement post-breeding and fledging.

Conservation status and concerns

The global population of these species has not been quantified. The overall population trend is on the decline. Considering the extremely large range of eastern grass-owl, it is inferred that it is not "Vulnerable" to extinction.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these owl species and has listed them as of "Least Concern".

Biological classification of Tyto longimembris
Species:T. longimembris
Binomial name:Tyto longimembris
Distribution:India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar,Thailand, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Philippines, New Guinea and Australia;
Diet and feeding habits:rodents;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

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