Sooty Owl (Tyto tenebricosa)

Sooty Owl

[order] STRIGIFORMES | [family] Tytonidae | [latin] Tyto tenebricosa | [authority] Gould, 1845 | [UK] Sooty Owl | [FR] Grande Effraie | [DE] Russeule | [ES] Lechuza Tenebrosa | [NL] Zwarte Kerkuil


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

A medium-sized owl to 45 cm long, with dark eyes set in a prominent flat, heart-shaped facial disc. Dark sooty-grey in colour, with large eyes in a grey face, fine white spotting above and below, and a pale belly. The plumage of the fledglings is similar to the adult, but has tufts of down on the head and underparts

Listen to the sound of Sooty Owl

[audio: Owl.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 37 cm size max.: 43 cm
incubation min.: 41 days incubation max.: 43 days
fledging min.: 20 days fledging max.: 22 days
broods: 0   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 2  


Australasia : New Guinea, East Australia. This species has a large range along the west coast of Australia and on New Guinea (Indonesia and Papua New Guinea). Subspecies multipunctata, sometimes treated as a separate species, is a restricted-range taxon, being found only in a substantial area of rainforest in north-east Queensland (Australia), between Shiptons Flat (south of Cooktown), south to Bluewater range (north of Townsville), and inland to Mt Carbine, Atherton and Ravenshoe. Its range may extend to south of Townsville, to Mt Elliott


Occurs in rainforest, including dry rainforest, subtropical and warm temperate rainforest, as well as moist eucalypt forests.


The nest is in a large hollow tree or a cave. The female remains in the nest for several weeks before she lays one or two dull white eggs from January through June. The incubation time is 42 days. The males brings food to the female who rarely leaves the nest. The young are born with dull grey down and can fly in three weeks.

Feeding habits

They hunt in drier areas but roost and breed in the moister areas. They feed on mammals ranging from large arboreal marsupials such as the Greater Glider, through Ringtail Possums and Sugar Gliders to bandicoots, rodents and antechinus. They occasionally take birds and insects.

Video Sooty Owl


copyright: Josep del Hoyo


This species has a very 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.
Sooty Owl status Least Concern



Distribution map

Sooty Owl distribution range map

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