Rufous Fishing Owl (Scotopelia ussheri)

Rufous Fishing Owl

[order] STRIGIFORMES | [family] Strigidae | [latin] Scotopelia ussheri | [authority] Sharpe, 1871 | [UK] Rufous Fishing Owl | [FR] Chouette pecheuse rousse | [DE] Rotrucken-Fischeule | [ES] Carabo Pescador Rojizo | [NL] Rosse Visuil


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Scotopelia ussheri AF w


Fish owls of the genus Scotopelia live in the African rainforest and includes the Pel’s fishing-owl, the rufous fish owl, endemic to western African rainforest, and the vermiculated fish owl. These Owls have very distinct feet which sets them apart from all other Owls. The feet are similar to that of the Osprey with a rough surface perfectly adapted to grip fish. Unlike most other owls these raptors are adapted to a variety of habitats.

Physical charateristics

Large, orange-coloured owl with dark eyes and no “ears”. Uniform orangey-brown upperparts with paler buff underparts streaked with brown. In flight, imparts an orange and white appearance, showing off pale underwings and white belly. Similar spp. Smaller than Pel’s Fishing Owl Scotopelia peli and has uniform, not barred, upperparts. Voice Baritone hoot given at irregular intervals, sometimes in a series and may duet. Call similar to S. peli, but somewhat higher pitched and not as “flat”, but slightly rising in pitch

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 46 cm size max.: 51 cm
incubation min.: 0 days incubation max.: 0 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 0   eggs min.: 0  
      eggs max.: 0  


Africa : West


Its preferred habitat is riverine rainforest and mangroves. However, recent records have come from a small stream in swampy forest in Tai National Park and streamside vegetation in a coffee plantation in degraded forest near Gola Forest. Recent surveys in Gola located the species in primary forest, forest edge near villages and in secondary growth such as old cocoa plantations and bamboo stands, along small, shady streams in mosaics of open floodplains and riverine forest. It would appear that it can survive in secondary forest with small rivers as long as there is suitable gallery forest, where branches of trees overhanging streams can be used as fishing posts


No data, probably similar breeding behavior to that of Pel’s Fishing Owl

Feeding habits

The species may feed on freshwater crabs and other food items, in addition to fish


This species is thought to have a small population, fragmented into smaller subpopulations, which are seriously threatened by forest loss. The species is highly susceptible to disturbance associated with deforestation and probably the poisoning of streams and rivers, and it may be declining rapidly. It is therefore classified as Endangered. It is very likely that its future survival will depend on populations in protected areas, which presently receive inadequate management and protection.
Scotopelia ussheri is endemic to the Upper Guinea forests of West Africa, occurring in Guinea (recorded from Ziama forest in 1951 and more recently in 1992 and 1993), Sierra Leone (four records up to 1969, in 1989 recorded from an area adjacent to Gola Forest, in 1992, found to be moderately common in one small area on Mt Loma, and recently river surveys in Gola located it in at least four, but possibly six, areas, suggesting it is uncommon or rare, but perhaps locally common along the Kwadi and Makoi Rivers), Liberia (fairly widely distributed and not uncommon with recent sight records from the upper Dube River, Zwedru, and near small forest streams in Grand Gedeh and northern Lofa County), Cote d’Ivoire (five sites: Lamto, and four protected areas: TaiNP, Azagny NP, Mount Peko NP and Marahoue NP) and Ghana (not found during surveys in south-west during 2001-2005, thus it is probably very rare). Loma Forest, Sierra Leone, is a prime site for the species’s conservation due to the area of suitable habitat
Rufous Fishing Owl status Endangered


Presumed resident

Distribution map

Rufous Fishing Owl distribution range map

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