Rare sighting of Oriental Scops Owl in Mysore, India


Bangalore bird watcher Abhishek MB is all excited about his rare sighting of an Oriental Scops Owl (Otus sunia)  in Mysore

“Of all the birds reported, owls have been always very interesting and my favourite birds of prey,” says Abhishek. ” There are eight species of owls recorded in the Mysore area, Indian scops owl, Barn owl, Indian eagle owl, Brown hawk owl, Mottled wood owl, Brown fish owl, Spotted owlet and the rare and elusive Oriental scops owl. So far breeding records of all the owls apart from Oriental scops owl has been recorded. Oriental scops owl has been occasionally and rarely sighted during the winter seasons and it was believed to be a winter visitor in Mysore city and the surrounding area.”


Photos by Abhisek MB

According to Abhishek, the records are sporadic, in and around Mysore city within 10 square kilometres radius. And for the past 30 years or so there have been no records at all. Specifically, there were none documented from Mysore city limits.

He details how he was sure of his amazing sighting,” Early one morning I was birding near the outskirts of Mysore city looking for small Minivets. After having futile attempts on spotting them, I decided to rest in the nearby mangrove farm. Suddenly from nowhere there was a flutter of wings in the thicket, and I could make out it was an owl. I thought it was a common owl, the Indian Scops owl.”

After clicking a few shots, he skimmed through the images on the camera monitor, and was startled to find it was Oriental scops owl. Having being aware of few wintering records of the same bird, he started looking for signs of any other individuals. “To my surprise there were two more owls – one was a female presumably and other was a juvenile. I just couldn’t believe that these were resident owls in the surrounding city area.” The habitat itself was open and semi-open woodland with scattered trees and open country very close to habitation. He always thought that Chamundi hills or the nearby Cauvery wildlife sanctuary or the thicker forested Bandipur and Nagarhole made a good habitat for sighting this very rare and elusive species of owl.

Even though he was not able to find any nest, he says his assumption of breeding resident is based on the juvenile that he sighted. The bird was too young to fly as the wings were not fully grown.

This helps in drawing the conclusion that the bird is indeed breeding in the Mysore city limits.

Abhishek like other bird lovers hope that these rare owls continue to thrive in the harsh landscape where the habitat is rapidly getting destroyed by the growing population and greedy land developers.

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