Buffy fish owl

   ›      ›   Buffy fish owl - Ketupa ketupu

The buffy fish owl (Ketupa ketupu) is a typical owl belonging to the family Strigidae.

The buffy fish owl species are distributed in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia. Aquaculture farmers consider these owl species as pest birds. There are four recognized subspecies of these owls.

Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of Buffy Fish Owl Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

Buffy fish owl - Overview

  • Scientific name: Ketupa ketupu
  • Species author: (Horsfield, 1821)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Strix Ketupu Horsfield, 1821, Bubo ketupu
  • Family: Strigidae › Strigiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Buffy fish owl, Chinese: 马来渔鸮, French: Kétoupa malais, German: Sundafischuhu, Spanish: Búho pescador malayo, Russian: Малайский рыбный филин, Japanese: マレーウオミミズク, Malay: Burung Hantu Kuning
  • Other names: Malay Fish-owl
  • Distribution: India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia
  • Diet and feeding habits: fish, crustaceans, amphibians, reptiles, birds, small mammals, large insects, carrion
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)
The buffy fish owl (Ketupa ketupu) is closely related to tawny fish-owl (Ketupa flavipes) and brown fish-owl (Ketupa zeylonensis).

The four recognized subspecies of Ketupa ketupu are: Ketupa ketupu aagaardi (Neumann, 1935), Ketupa ketupu ketupu (Horsfield, 1821), Ketupa ketupu minor Büttikofer, 1896 and Ketupa ketupu pageli (Neumann, 1935).

Appearance, physical description and identification

The buffy fish owl (Ketupa ketupu) is a fairly large owl, measuring 35 to 50 cm in length and weighing 1000 to 2100 grams.

The overall plumage of these owls is buffy (yellow-brown). There is considerable variegating with pale buffy color. The feathers are edged pale brown. The wings and tail are broadly barred pale and dark brown. The underparts are yellow-brown or tawny. There are dark vertical striations.

In buffy fish owl the ear tufts are prominent and hang to the sides of the head, giving a scraggly look. The facial disc does not have well defined margin. The forehead is whitish. The feather lack the comb and hair-like fringes to the primaries and their wing beats make sounds.

The long legs are unfeathered and pale yellow. They have a rough texture to the bottom of their toes for gripping a slippery prey. They have large, powerful, and curved talons. The bill is black. The irises are yellow. Their call is a ringing, loud "pof-pof-pof" and a loud "hie-e-e-e-e-keek" sound.
Indian birds - Picture of Buffy fish owl - Ketupa ketupu
Birds of India - Image of Buffy fish owl - Ketupa ketupu by Doug Janson

Birds of India - Photo of Buffy fish owl - Ketupa ketupu
Indian birds - Picture of Buffy fish owl - Ketupa ketupu by Santanu Majumdar

Indian birds - Image of Buffy fish owl - Ketupa ketupu
Birds of India - Photo of Buffy fish owl - Ketupa ketupu by Bernard DUPONT

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The buffy fish owl species are distributed in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia. In India, these owl species are distributed in the states of Odisha, West Bengal, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Tripura and Mizoram.

The buffy fish owl nominate subspecies K. k. ketupu is distributed in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia. The subspecies K. k. aagaardi is distributed in India, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The subspecies K. k. minor occurs in Nīas Island (Indonesia). The owl subspecies K. k. pageli is found in northwest Borneo.

Ecosystem and habitat

These buffy fish owl species have low forest dependency. These species occur in altitudes from 0 to 1500 meters.

The artificial ecosystems of these buffy fish owl species include rural gardens, plantations, urban parks, pasturelands, freshwater, brackish water and marine aquaculture ponds, irrigation canals and irrigated lands.

The natural ecosystems of these owl species include tropical and subtropical moist lowland forests, permanent freshwater lakes, seasonal lakes and waterbodies, rivers, streams and creeks.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of these buffy fish owl species is mostly fish. Crabs, shrimps, frogs, toads, crayfish, reptiles, birds, small mammals and large insects are their primary food. They are known to prey on snakes, fruit bats and young false gharials. They also feed on carrion.

These owl species hunt from the bank of streams, lakes and aquaculture ponds, swooping down on the prey near the water surface. They do not get their feathers wet. They also wade in shallow waters in streams, brooks and ponds to hunt.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these buffy owl species in India is from December to May, with a peak period from January to April. The breeding season in Malaysia is from July to April with a peak period from September to January.

These buffy owl species do not build nests. They nest on top of bird's-nest fern, in tree fork covered with ferns and moss, on orchid beds, in tree holes, on rocky sites and even in abandoned nests of other species of birds.

The typical buffy fish owl clutch has one oval and dull white egg. The chick hatches out after 28-29 days of incubation. The chicks fledge after six weeks of growth. Both the parents take care of the hatchling.

Migration and movement patterns

The buffy fish owl species are non-migrant, resident birds.

Post breeding, the buffy fish owl juveniles may disperse and establish in new locations within the range. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding within their range.

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the buffy fish owl (Ketupa ketupu) has not been quantified. The overall population trend of these owl species is considered to be stable. Throughout its range it is reported to be uncommon to common. The generation length is 5.7 years. Their distribution size is about 7,450,000 sq.km.

The buffy fish owl (Ketupa ketupu) 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. The habitat destruction, persecution from aquaculture farmers and trapping for pet trade are the main threats that may endanger the survival of these buffy owl species.

IUCN and CITES status

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the owl species and has listed it as of "Least Concern". The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Evaluated’ for the buffy fish owl (Ketupa ketupu) and listed in Appendix II.
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Ketupa ketupu
Species:K. ketupu
Binomial name:Ketupa ketupu
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
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1.Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Buffy_Fish-Owl.jpg (cropped)
Image author: Doug Janson | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
2.Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Buffy_Fish_Owl_from_Sundarbans.jpg (cropped)
Image author: Santanu Majumdar | License: CC BY-SA 4.0
3.Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/berniedup/8071038759/ (cropped)
Image author: Bernard DUPONT | License: CC BY-SA 2.0 as on 5/11/17
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