Pallid scops-owl (Otus brucei)

Also known as: striated scops-owl
GenusOtus (1)
SizeLength: 21 cm (2)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

A relatively small and inconspicuous owl species, the pallid scops-owl’s light greyish-brown, sparsely black-streaked plumage provides good camouflage against tree-trunks and rocks. The head is crowned with small ear tufts, and the eyes are large and yellow. There are four recognised subspecies, which differ in location and plumage colouration, but may display significant overlaps in range and appearance. Otus brucei brucei and Otus brucei semenowi are relatively similar, with each exhibiting a yellowish tinge to the feathers, but with the latter having a deeper ochre hue, and sometimes broader streaking. Otus brucei obsoletus is more sandy buff with sharper, narrow streaks, while Otus brucei exiguus isgreyer, with weaker, more diffuse streaking below. The male pallid scops-owl makes a territorial call consisting of a long series of low, dove-like, hollow “whoop” or “whoo” notes. Both sexes also produce short barking calls (2).

A widely distributed species, the core of the pallid scops-owl’s range lies within the Middle East. Subspecies Otus brucei brucei is found from the east coast of the Aral Sea to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan; Otus brucei obsoletus occupies southern Turkey, northern Syria, northern Iraq, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and northern Afghanistan; Otus brucei semenowi inhabits southern Tajikistan and western China, south to east Afghanistan and northern Pakistan; and Otus brucei exiguus occurs in Israel (where it is now extinct as a breeder), central and east Iraq, southern Iran, Oman, southern Afghanistan and western Pakistan (2). This species can also be found in the United Arab Emirates, where migrating individuals may make a temporary halt or remain in the vicinity to breed (4); migrating individuals may also be found in India (5).

In accordance with its expansive range, the pallid scops-owls occupies a wide variety of habitats, including semi-open areas with trees and bushes; cultivated areas such as palm groves, orchards, parks and large gardens; and arid areas such as semi-desert, stony foothills and rocky gorges. This species is mostly found in lowland areas, but may occur up to elevations of 1,800 metres in Pakistan (2).

Owing to its small body size, the pallid scops-owl mainly feeds upon insects, such as beetles, moths, locusts and mole crickets. Nevertheless, it is also capable of taking small mammals, such as rodents, shrews and bats, along with small birds and lizards. This species typically hunts from a perch, swooping down to pluck prey from branches or the ground, but may also catch aerial prey on the wing. While the pallid scops-owl is predominantly a nocturnal hunter, it has also been observed foraging in the morning and afternoon (2).

The pallid scops-owl’s breeding season begins in March, with egg-laying taking place between April and May in most parts of its range. This species is highly vocal during the breeding season, producing loud calls that aid the forming of breeding pairs and advertise the male’s territory. Nests are usually constructed in a hollow tree, old woodpecker hole, or a cavity in a bank, wall, cliff or building, although in some localities unoccupied magpie nests are used. Four to six eggs are laid, and are incubated for 26 to 28 days, with fledging occurring around one month later (2).

While accurate measures of the pallid scops-owl’s global population size and trend are lacking, it appears to be generally common in many parts of its range and is not facing any major threats (1) (2).

There are no known conservation measures specifically targeting the pallid scops-owl (1) (2)

To learn more about owl conservation visit:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)