Spot-bellied eagle-owl

   ›      ›   Spot-bellied eagle-owl - Bubo nipalensis

The spot-bellied eagle-owl (Bubo nipalensis) belongs to the family of typical owls, Strigidae.

These eagle-owl species are distributed in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The spot-bellied eagle-owls are large, very powerful and bold predatory birds.

They are known to prey on large birds and also on mammals like golden jackals, hares, civets and chevrotains. There are two recognized subspecies of these eagle-owl species.

Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of Spot-bellied Eagle-owl Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

Appearance, physical description and identification

The spot-bellied eagle-owl (Bubo nipalensis) is a large bird, measuring about 50 to 65 cm in length and weighing 1500 to 1700 grams.

The overall plumage of these spot-bellied eagle-owl species is dark brown on the head, upper wings and upperparts. The throat and the underparts are pale brown. The upperparts are barred and mottled pale brown. The flanks have black and white horizontal stripes.

The breast, belly and undertail have broad dark brown spots. The ear-tufts are long and slanting, having feathers of different sizes. The facial disc is pale buff. The legs and feet are feathered except for the terminal digits of the toes.

The nostrils are round. The beak is curved and yellowish. The long curved talons are steel gray. The irises are dark brown. The juveniles are much paler. The call of spot-bellied owl is a deep, booming "hoo hoo" sound. They also make loud screaming sound.
Indian birds - Picture of Spot-bellied eagle-owl - Bubo nipalensis
Birds of India - Image of Spot-bellied eagle-owl - Bubo nipalensis by N A Nazeer

Birds of India - Image of Spot-bellied eagle-owl - Bubo nipalensis
Indian birds - Picture of Spot-bellied eagle-owl - Bubo nipalensis by Giridhar

Origin, geographical range and distribution

These spot-bellied eagle-owl species are distributed in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The subspecies B. n. blighi is distributed in Sri Lanka.

The nominate subspecies of spot-bellied owl B. n. nipalensis is distributed in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

In India, these spot-bellied eagle-owl species are distributed in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura and Mizoram.

Ecosystem and habitat

These spot-bellied eagle-owl species are highly forest dependent. These species occur in altitudes from 300 to 3000 meters.

The natural ecosystem of these spot-bellied eagle-owl species includes subtropical and tropical moist lowland forests, foothill forests, moist deciduous forests, subtropical and tropical moist montane forests, dense evergreen forests and montane wet temperate forests.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of these spot-bellied eagle-owl species is mostly birds. Several species of mammals (of manageable size), a variety of birds (especially pheasants), reptiles (including large monitor lizards), amphibians and fish are their primary food. They have been observed to feed on the carcasses of goats and tigers.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these spot-bellied eagle-owl species is in February and March in Himalayan region. In Sri Lanka, the breeding season is in April and May. The laying season is in December and January in southern India.

These spot-bellied owl species normally nest in large tree cavities. There are known to make use of abandoned large stick-nests of eagles, vultures or kites. In some rare cases, they have been observed to nest in sheltered rock crevices and caves.

The typical spot-bellied owl clutch contains one white, ovoid, smooth surfaced egg. Both the parents have been observed to incubate the egg. Perhaps, the male incubates in short spells during the absence of the female.

These eagle-owls are highly aggressive in defense of their nests, attaching and seriously injuring intruders.

Migration and movement patterns

The spot-bellied eagle-owl (Bubo nipalensis) is a non-migratory resident bird. Post breeding, the spot-bellied eagle-owl juveniles may disperse and establish in new locations within the range. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding within their range. Birds in high mountain forests may descend to lower levels in winter.

Spot-bellied eagle-owl - Overview

  • Scientific name: Bubo nipalensis
  • Species author: Hodgson, 1836
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Bubo nipalensis Hodgson, 1836
  • Family: Strigidae › Strigiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Spot-bellied eagle-owl, Chinese: 林雕鸮, French: Grand-duc du Népal, German: Nepaluhu, Spanish: Búho nepalí, Russian: Непальский филин, Japanese: ネパールワシミミズク, Tamil: Kattu Aaandhai
  • Other names: forest eagle-owl
  • Distribution: India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam
  • Diet and feeding habits: birds, mammals, reptiles, fish, carrion
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)
The spot-bellied eagle-owl (Bubo nipalensis) are closely related to barred eagle-owl (Bubo sumatranus).
The two recognized subspecies of spot-bellied eagle-owl are: Bubo nipalensis nipalensis Hodgson, 1836 and Bubo nipalensis blighi Legge, 1878.

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the spot-bellied owl (Bubo nipalensis) has not been quantified. The overall population trend of these species is considered to be stable.

Throughout its range it is reported to be rare and local. The generation length is 11.6 years. Their distribution size is about 8,530,000

The spot-bellied eagle-owl (Bubo nipalensis) does not approach the thresholds for being Vulnerable, either under the range size criterion, or under the population trend criterion, or under the population size criterion.

Deforestation and loss of habitat and trapping of adults and juveniles for pet trade are the main threat that may endanger the survival of these species.

IUCN and CITES status

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the spot-bellied eagle-owl species and has listed it as of "Least Concern".

CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Evaluated’ for the spot-bellied eagle-owl (Bubo nipalensis) and listed in Appendix II.
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Bubo nipalensis
Species:B. nipalensis
Binomial name:Bubo nipalensis
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
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1.Image source:
Image author: N. A. Naseer / / | License: CC BY-SA 2.5 IN (cropped)
2.Image source:
Image author: Giridhar | License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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