Brown wood owl

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The brown wood owl (Strix leptogrammica) is a typical owl belonging to the family Strigidae.

The brown wood owl species are distributed in Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia and southern and southeastern China. These owl species do not have ear tufts and have high forest dependence. These owls are polytypic species.

Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of Brown Wood 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 brown wood owl (Strix leptogrammica) is a medium-sized owl, measuring 40 to 55 cm in length and weighing 500 to 700 grams. Both the sexes look alike.

The overall plumage of brown wood owl is shades of brown. In adult nominate subspecies the head is blackish or brownish with reddish tint. A prominent rufous nuchal collar separates the head from the mantle.

The prominent facial disc is rufous. There is a black patch around the eyes. There is a distinct, narrow, black rim around the facial disc. The eyebrows are whitish buff. There are black and white rictal bristles.

The mantle and back of brown wood owl are brownish-chestnut with dense dark brownish or blackish barring. The primaries are barred chestnut and are dark and brownish. The secondaries and wing-coverts are reddish-yellow with dark tawny-brownish barring.

The neck is these owls is brownish and the throat has a narrow, white horizontal patch. The upper breast has a rufous pectoral band. The lower breast, belly and vent region are creamy-buff with dense brownish barring. The tail is barred tawny-rufous. The tail feathers have whitish tip.

The brown wood owl bill is greenish-horn in color with bluish base and pale yellowish green tip. The irises are brownish black. The cere are bluish gray. The toes have feathers at base and only the two distal pale gray phalanges are bare. The claws are dusky lead gray.

The brown wood owl hatchlings have pale rufous-buff down. The juveniles have buff facial disc bordered with black line. The head and mantle are very pale rufous with faint barring. The tail is creamish white with dark rufous bands and white tip.

Their call is a single hoot followed by a vibrating note (who.. whoowwwooh). When agitated, the brown wood owls make make threatening hoarse hoots "huh huh huh" and short barking "wow wow wow" sounds.
Indian birds - Picture of Brown wood owl - Strix leptogrammica
1.Birds of India - Image of Brown wood owl - Strix leptogrammica by Koshy Koshy

Birds of India - Photo of Brown wood owl - Strix leptogrammica
2.Indian birds - Picture of Brown wood owl - Strix leptogrammica by Johnsonwang6688

Indian birds - Image of Brown wood owl - Strix leptogrammica
3.Birds of India - Photo of Brown wood owl - Strix leptogrammica by TANAKA Juuyoh

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The brown wood owl species are distributed in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, China and Taiwan.

In India, these brown wood owl species are distributed in the states of Kerala, Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura and Mizoram.

The brown wood owl nominate subspecies S. l. leptogrammica are distributed in central and south Borneo (Indonesia). The subspecies S. l. bartelsi is distributed in Java (Indonesia). The owl subspecies S. l. niasensis occurs in Nias Island (Indonesia).

The brown wood owl subspecies S. l. vaga is distributed in north Borneo (Malaysia). The subspecies S. l. chaseni occurs in Belitung Island (Indonesia). The subspecies S. l. nyctiphasma is distributed in Banyak Islands (Indonesia).

The brown wood owl subspecies S. l. myrtha is distributed in Sumatra (Indonesia). The subspecies S. l. maingayi is distributed in south Myanmar, south Thailand and Malaysia. The owl subspecies S. l. ochrogenys occurs in Sri Lanka.

The brown wood owl subspecies S. l. indranee is distributed in southern India. The subspecies S. l. laotiana occurs in south Laos and central Vietnam. The subspecies S. l. caligata is distributed in Hainan and Taiwan (China).

The brown wood owl subspecies S. l. ticehursti is distributed in central and north Myanmar, southeast China, north Thailand, north Laos and north Vietnam. The owl subspecies S. l. newarensis occurs in Himalayas (India and Nepal) and northeast India.

Ecosystem and habitat

These brown wood owl species have high forest dependence. These species normally occur in altitudes from 750 to 2500 meters.

The natural ecosystems of these brown wood owl species include tropical and subtropical moist montane forests, dense evergreen forests, tropical and subtropical moist lowland forests, dense tropical forests along the sea coast, primary forests and temperate forests.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of the brown wood owl consists mainly of mammals. Rats, mice and other rodents, bats, birds, lizards, frogs, crabs and large insects are their primary food.

Small prey are swallowed whole by these owls. Larger prey is torn into pieces before swallowing. Birds are plucked before swallowing. Indigestible items like hairs, feathers and bones are regurgitated in large pellets.

The brown wood owl usually hunts from a perch. It catches large insects and bats in flight. Roosting birds may be flushed in darkness and caught in flight. The powerful talons are used for gripping, lifting and killing the prey.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these brown wood owl species in south India and Sri Lanka is from January to March. The laying season in Himalayan region is from February to April. These owl species are monogamous and nest in tree hollows. The typical clutch contains two eggs.

Migration and movement patterns

The brown wood owl species are non-migrant resident birds. The brown wood owl populations in higher altitudes may move to lower levels during winter.

Post breeding, the juvenile owls may disperse and establish in new locations within the range. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding within their range.

Brown wood owl - Overview

  • Scientific name: Strix leptogrammica
  • Species author: Temminck, 1831
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Strix leptogrammica Temminck, 1832
  • Family: Strigidae › Strigiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Brown wood owl, Chinese: 褐林鸮,French: Chouette leptogramme, German: Malaienkauz, Spanish: Cárabo oriental, Russian: Неясыть бурая лесная, Japanese: オオフクロウ, Malay: Burung Hantu Punggok
  • Other names: Brown Wood-Owl
  • Distribution: Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia, southern and southeastern China
  • Diet and feeding habits: small mammals, birds, reptiles
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the brown wood owl (Strix leptogrammica) has not been quantified. The overall population trend of these species is reported to be decreasing.

Throughout its range this owl species is reported to be uncommon. The generation length is 9.6 years. Its distribution size is about 18,000,000

Trapping for pet-trade, habitat degradation and habitat loss are the main threats that may endanger the survival of these wood owl species.

IUCN and CITES status

The brown wood owl (Strix leptogrammica) 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 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 brown wood owl (Strix leptogrammica) and listed in Appendix II.
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Strix leptogrammica
Species:S. leptogrammica
Binomial name:Strix leptogrammica
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
The fourteen recognized subspecies of brown wood owl (Strix leptogrammica) are: S. l. leptogrammica, S. l. newarensis, S. l. bartelsi, S. l. ticehursti, S. l. niasensis, S. l. caligata, S. l. laotiana, S. l. vaga, S. l. indranee, S. l. chaseni, S. l. ochrogenys, S. l. nyctiphasma, S. l. maingayi and S. l. myrtha.
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1.Brown wood owl picture source:,_Welimada,_Sri_Lanka_-8a.jpg (cropped)
Picture author: Koshy Koshy | License: CC BY 2.0 as on 7/8/17
2.Picture source: (cropped)
Picture author: Johnsonwang6688 | License: CC BY-SA 4.0
3.Picture source: (cropped)
Picture author: TANAKA Juuyoh | License: CC BY 2.0 as on 7/8/17
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