Madagascar Red Owl (Tyto soumagnei)

Madagascar Red Owl

[order] STRIGIFORMES | [family] Tytonidae | [latin] Tyto soumagnei | [authority] Milne Edwards, 1878 | [UK] Madagascar Red Owl | [FR] Effraie jaune | [DE] Malegasseneule | [ES] Lechuza Malgache | [NL] Madagaskargrasuil


Monotypic species


The genus Tyto includes all barn-owls (family Tytonidae) except for the bay-owls (subfamily Phodilinae, genus Phodilus) – that is, the true barn-owls, the grass-owls and the masked-owls collectively making up the subfamily Tytoninae. They are darker on the back than the front, usually an orange-brown colour, the front being a paler version of the back or mottled, although there is considerable variation even amongst species. Tyto owls have a divided, heart-shaped facial disc, and lack the ear-like tufts of feathers found in many other owls. Tyto owls tend to be larger than Bay-owls.

Physical charateristics

Medium-sized owl. Variable rich orange-buff upperparts (including crown), marked with sparse black spots especially on crown, coverts and flight feathers. Rather uniform pale orange underparts, with paler facial ruff and belly. Pale bill, grey legs. Similar spp. From Barn Owl T. alba by smaller size, rounder facial disk, overall rich orange colouration (especially on breast). Voice Call usually strongly descending in tone (like T. alba).

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 28 cm size max.: 32 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 : Madagascar. There are records of Tyto soumagnei from the eastern rainforest of Madagascar, formerly known from between Amber Mountain in the far north to Mantadia National Park in the centre-east, in particular. Significantly, a further site (Kalambatritra) for the species was recently located 500 km further south of its previously known range. More recently, the species was found in the extreme south-east of Madagascar, in the lowlands of Tsitongambarika, extending its presumed range considerably. It is probably present in all suitably large blocks of humid evergreen forest in the east and north of Madagascar, but its nocturnal habits make it difficult to detect. Future surveys may reveal it to be less rare than currently thought.


The species occurs in and adjacent to humid evergreen forest from sea level to 2000 m, but has also been recorded in an area dominated by dry deciduous forest. It hunts at night in somewhat open areas in or near primary forest, perching in trees at the forest edge. Although formerly believed to occur only in undisturbed rainforest, it has been recorded in degraded/secondary forest-edge vegetation and also hunts over open, human-altered habitat adjacent to forest, including rice-paddies and slash-and-burn cultivation, and it may require both forest and open areas (and so may be absent from large areas of forest interior). In Masoala it ranged over 210 ha.


The first nest recorded by scientists was found in September 1995, 23 m above ground, in a natural tree-cavity in an isolated native tree Weinmannia, 500 m from the edge of the main forest block. Clutch-size was probably two (two young successfully fledged). The species may have been overlooked previously for three reasons: a) it is reclusive and strictly nocturnal; b) it is mistaken for Tyto alba; and c) it occurs patchily and at low densities.

Feeding habits

Its diet is predominantly small native mammals, in contrast to T. alba which feeds mostly on introduced rat Rattus species outside primary forest. Tsingy tufted-tailed rats Eliurus antsingy constituted almost 50% of total prey mass of birds in dry forest at Ankarana (northern Madagascar), and birds here also consumed insects, frogs and geckos. Birds have been recorded roosting on rock ledges and in cave entrances.


This species has been downlisted to Vulnerable as recent range extensions mean its population is now thought to be larger than was previously believed, however its population is still presumed to be small and declining owing to the destruction and severe fragmentation of its rainforest habitat.
It is a rare resident of Madagascar that was virtually unknown from its discovery in 1878 to its rediscovery by researchers from the World Wide Fund for Nature in 1993. It is currently listed as vulnerable because of habitat loss, but information is lacking and it may have a wider range than believed. It has possibly been overlooked because of its close resemblance to the closely related Barn Owl.
Madagascar Red Owl status Vulnerable


Presumed sedentary

Distribution map

Madagascar Red Owl distribution range map

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