Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

African Scops-owl (Otus senegalensis)


French: Petit-duc africain German: Afrika-Zwergohreule Spanish: Autillo africano

Scops Senegalensis


, 1837,



Formerly considered conspecific with O. scops, but separated specifically on basis of differences in voice, plumage and size. Until recently, considered conspecific (although possibility of separation mentioned in HBW) with O. pamelae and O. socotranus (see both); and hitherto considered conspecific with O. feae (which see). Appears closely related to O. pembaensis#R. Race nivosus rather poorly differentiated, and not recognized by many authors#R. Several additional races described on basis of differences in plumage, morphology and/or size: populations from C Ethiopia to Somalia and N Kenya, from NE DRCongo and W Uganda, and from Swaziland and Eastern Cape Province (South Africa) sometimes separated as, respectively, caecus, ugandae and latipennis, but probably only colour morphs; birds described from S Sudan and NW Ethiopia (pygmaeus), E Kenya and Tanzania (graueri), Angola E to Malawi (hendersonii), E Malawi to N Mozambique (pusillus) and Namibia to NE South Africa (N KwaZulu-Natal) and S Mozambique (intermedius) poorly differentiated and seem to fall within range of variation of nominate. Two subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • O. s. senegalensis (Swainson, 1837) – S Mauritania E to Eritrea and Somalia, and S (except in SE Kenya) to SE South Africa.
  • O. s. nivosus Keith & Twomey, 1968 – SE Kenya (lower R Tana to Lali Hills).
  • Descriptive notes

    16–19 cm; male 45–65 g, female 58–100 g; wingspan c. 40–45 cm. Occurs in grey-brown and rufous-brown morphs. Greyish facial disc bordered by black,... read more


    Short purring, frog-like trill, “krrruup”, repeated at intervals of 5–10 seconds... read more


    Wooded savanna, dry, open woodland, forest clearings, park-like habitats, bushveld, and acacia... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mostly invertebrates, including beetles, mantids, crickets, grasshoppers, cockroaches, spiders and scorpions; prey delivered to nest also... read more


    Lays generally at start of rains: Feb–May and Sept in W Africa, Apr–May in Sudan, Aug–Dec in E Africa, mainly Aug–... read more


    Little information. Some evidence that birds from S of Limpopo R may move N into Zimbabwe in winter.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Generally common throughout range, and locally very common, especially in wooded savanna, where up to 12 individuals heard... read more

    Recommended citation

    Holt, D.W., Berkley, R., Deppe, C., Enríquez Rocha, P., Petersen, J.L., Rangel Salazar, J.L., Segars, K.P., Wood, K.L. & Marks, J.S. (2019). African Scops-owl (Otus senegalensis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 13 December 2019).