Forest Owlet (Heteroglaux blewitti)

Forest Owlet

[order] STRIGIFORMES | [family] Strigidae | [latin] Heteroglaux blewitti | [authority] Hume, 1873 | [UK] Forest Owlet | [FR] Cheveche forestiere | [DE] Blewittkauz | [ES] Mochuelo de Blewitt | [NL] Bossteenuil


Monotypic species


The Forest Owlet Athene (Heteroglaux) blewitti (Forest Spotted Owlet or Blewitt?s Owl), one of the least known endemic birds of India. It is the only member of its genus and has been recently (1997) rediscovered. The fact that it is known to be distinctive in appearance compare to Spotted Owlet Athene brama and as well as to some extent is diurnal, even highly visible. It has long been considered a subspecies of A. brama.

Physical charateristics

Typical owlet with rather plain crown and heavily banded wings and tail. Dark grey-brown crown and nape, faintly spotted white. Broadly banded, blackish-brown and white wings and tail, with a broad white tail-tip. Dark brown breast with broad, prominent barring on flanks. White rest of underparts. Similar spp. Spotted Owlet A. brama has more distinct spotting on crown and nape, a prominent white nuchal collar, and lacks broadly banded tail. Voice Territorial call is rather loud, mellow uwww or uh-wuwww. Calls include hissing shreeee or kheek and repeated kwaak notes, rising and falling in pitch.

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 20 cm size max.: 23 cm
incubation min.: 0 days incubation max.: 0 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 0   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 3  


Oriental Region : Central India


It appears to be a sedentary resident with recent sightings from fairly open deciduous forest dominated by teak Tectona grandis. It was rediscovered at 460 m and other known locations are at 400-650 m. Most historical records came from moist deciduous forest or dense jungle, the altitudinal range of which is unclear, although most specimens were collected in plains forest. This suggests that the recent observations from hill slopes may represent birds in suboptimal habitat


It breeds between October and May laying a brood of two eggs in a hole in a softwood tree, and can relay if its first nesting attempt fails

Feeding habits

It appears to be quite strongly diurnal and fairly easy to detect, frequently perching on prominent bare branches. Lizards, small rodents, grasshoppers and nestlings of other birds are all prey items. It appears to partition resources with the similar and widespread Spotted Owlet Athene brama

Video Forest Owlet


copyright: Martin Kennewell


This species has a tiny, severely fragmented population, known from less than ten recent locations. It is likely to be declining as a result of loss of its deciduous forest habitat. Although surveys continue to discover more individuals, these factors lead to its present classification as Critically Endangered. Further information may warrant its downlisting to a lower category of threat in future.
Heteroglaux blewitti is endemic to central India. Until its rediscovery in 1997, it was known from seven specimens collected during the 19th century at four localities in two widely separated areas, northern Maharashtra, and south-east Madhya Pradesh/western Orissa. In 2000, a survey of 14 forest areas across its former range located 25 birds at four sites in northern Maharashtra and south-western Madhya Pradesh, including three pairs at Taloda Forest Range and seven pairs at Toranmal Forest Range. Further surveys on the Toranmal Forest Range in November 2009 revealed that only two of the seven territories remain. No birds were found in a brief survey of its former eastern range in Orissa, or in north east Andhra Pradesh. More recently survey effort in the Satpura Range (Maharashtra) has located another five sites, indicating that the species may prove to be widespread but previously overlooked in the western Satpuda Mountains, and in 2006 birds were found in Burhanpur and Khandawa. By 2005, over 100 individuals had been recorded in Melghat Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra, which is now recognised as the species’s stronghold. Modelling suggests that its remaining range is severely fragmented, and only c.10% is protected. Although there is some confusion over its former abundance, evidence strongly suggests it has always been scarce.
Forest Owlet status Critically Endangered



Distribution map

Forest Owlet distribution range map

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