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Brown Fish Owl - BirdForum Opus

(Redirected from Ketupa zeylonensis)
Ssp. zeylonensis
Photo by Fonny
Habarana, Sri Lanka, December 2004
Ketupa zeylonensis


48–58 cm (19-22¾ in)

  • Obvious "horns" usually held horizontal
  • Rufous brown upperparts, streaked black
    • Obvious whitish to buff markings on the folded wing
  • Pale underparts streaked and barred brown
  • White throat
  • Tail barred brown and buff
  • Yellow iris
  • Bare parts yellowish to greenish

Juvenile more uniform than adult.

Ssp. leschenaulti
Photo by Alok Tewari
Gohana, Dist. Sonipat, Haryana, India, January 2017


Widespread from Pakistan and India east to China and south to Malaysia.

Extremely rare in the Western Palearctic. A small populaton was recently rediscovered in the Taurus Mountains of southern Turkey. May still occur in Jordan in the Yarmuk and northern Jordan Valleys but probably now extinct in the Golan Heights of Syria where not recorded in recent years.

Formerly bred in northern Israel and also recorded in southern Iraq.

Recorded in Lebanon.


Juvenile of subspecies orientalis
Photo © by Godwin Chan
Hong Kong, China, 2 June 2021


Subspecies semenowi
Photo by Seyed Babak Mus
Near to Gaz river in Hormozgan Province, Iran, Spring 2004

There are 4 subspecies[1]:

  • K. z. semenowi:
  • K. z. leschenaulti:
  • K. z. zeylonensis:
  • K. z. orientalis:

A recent study suggests that K. z. semenowi should be studied further because it may be a full species[3].


Lakes, rivers and streams with tree-lined margins, wadis with shrubs in the Golan Heights.


Subspecies K. c. orientalis
Photo © by Godwin Chan
Hong Kong, China, 16 March 2021


The diet consists of frogs, fish, crabs, crayfish, mammals, birds and reptiles with the majority of food coming from the first three groups.
Mainly active during night, possibly with maximum at dawn and dusk, but also some reports of hunting during the day.


They use old nests made from sticks, or they nest on ledges. The 1 or 2 eggs are incubated for 38 days; the young fledge after about 7 weeks.


Seems quite variable geographically, but involved two or three note boom or hoo sounds.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2021. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2021. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. World Owl Trust
  3. Birdforum thread discussing the taxonomy of Brown Fish Owl
  4. Holt, D. W., R. Berkley, C. Deppe, P. L. Enríquez, J. L. Petersen, J. L. Rangel Salazar, K. P. Segars, K. L. Wood, G. M. Kirwan, and J. S. Marks (2020). Brown Fish-Owl (Ketupa zeylonensis), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.brfowl1.01

Recommended Citation

External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.1