Brown Fish Owl (Ketupa zeylonensis)

Brown Fish Owl

[order] STRIGIFORMES | [family] Strigidae | [latin] Ketupa zeylonensis | [authority] Gmelin, 1788 | [UK] Brown Fish Owl | [FR] Ketupa pecheur | [DE] Fischuhu | [ES] Buho Pescador de Ceilan | [NL] Bruine Visuil


Monotypic species


The Asian Fish-Owls of the genus Ketupa comprises of three species, all occurring within Indian limits. They are large and powerful birds, with the tarsus partly
or wholly naked and granular, much like that of the Osprey, and the soles of the feet covered with prickly scales. The claws are large, well curved, each with a sharp cutting-edge beneath, and the middle claw with a sharp keel on the inside also. Aigrettes are present, long and pointed. The bill is large and strong. The facial disk is ill-marked, especially above. The wings are rounded, and do not reach the end of the tail, 4th quill generally the longest, 3rd and 5th subequal ; tail moderate.

Physical charateristics

It is a large owl with prominent “ear” tufts, typically around 55 cm in length. Subspecies differ in size and males are smaller than females, with the smallest birds not quite 50 cm long. The upperparts are reddish brown and heavily streaked with black or dark brown. The underparts are buff to whitish, with dark streaks and finer brown barring. The throat is white and can be conspicuously puffed, while the facial disk is indistinct. The irises are yellow, the feet a duller yellow, and the bill is dark. Sexes do not differ in appearance except for size.

Listen to the sound of Brown Fish Owl

[audio: Fish Owl.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 53 cm size max.: 57 cm
incubation min.: 38 days incubation max.: 39 days
fledging min.: 39 days fledging max.: 51 days
broods: 0   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 2  


Oriental Region, Eurasia : Middle East to Southeast Asia. This species is an all-year resident throughout most of tropical south Asia, from Pakistan through India to southern China and Southeast Asia; it is also found on Sri Lanka. West of its main range, it is patchily distributed to the Levant (possibly extinct) and southern Asia Minor.


It inhabits mainly the lowlands, in well-wooded habitat, from open woodland to dense forest as well as in plantations; in the Himalayas foothills it ranges into submontane forest up to 1500m


Brown Fish-owls breed from November to March. The clutch is one or two eggs, often placed in an old stick nest of other birds, otherwise in a rock crevice or similar. Incubation is 38 days or somewhat less, and the young fledge after about 7 weeks

Feeding habits

It feeds mainly on fishes, frogs and aquatic crustaceans; vertebrates, in particular terrestrial ones, are seldom taken. If hungry, Brown Fish-owls will scavenge carrion.

Video Brown Fish Owl


copyright: Jean Hupperetz


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Brown Fish Owl status Least Concern



Distribution map

Brown Fish Owl distribution range map

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