Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Brown Fish-owl (Ketupa zeylonensis)


French: Kétoupa brun German: Fischuhu Spanish: Búho pescador de Ceilán

Strix zeylonensis

J. F. Gmelin

, 1788,

Sri Lanka


When placed in Bubo, present species considered by some authors as being very close to, or even conspecific with, B. blakistoni (see latter species). Recent molecular phylogeny suggested that B. blakistoni is sister to K. ketupu, with these two species sister to K. flavipes and present species#R. In another molecular study, form semenowi found to differ to same extent (c. 2%) from both K. ketupu and other races of present species#R. Contrary to recent claims#R, correct spelling of Indian race is leschenaulti#R, though frequently misspelt as leschenault or leschenaultii. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • K. z. semenowi Zarudny, 1905 – S Turkey, Israel (probably extinct) and S Iran to SE Pakistan and NW India#R#R; probably also N Syria.
  • K. z. leschenaulti (Temminck, 1820) – N Pakistan and India (S of Himalayas) E to Myanmar (except NE) and Thailand.
  • K. z. zeylonensis (J. F. Gmelin, 1788) – Sri Lanka.
  • K. z. orientalis Delacour, 1926 – NE Myanmar to SE China (Guangxi, Guangdong), S to Malay Peninsula, Indochina and Hainan I.
  • Descriptive notes

    48–58 cm; one male c. 1105 g, one female 1308 g. Large, flat-headed owl, with noticeable ear-tufts usually held horizontally. Facial disc buff, with dark brown upper... read more


    Deep, hollow, eerie-sounding, humming “boom boom” or “boo o-boom”, repeated... read more


    Deciduous, semi-deciduous and open evergreen woodland, well-vegetated ravines, steep banks and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly fish, frogs and freshwater crabs; also crayfish, snakes and lizards (once a Varanus monitor of c. 28 cm), occasionally... read more


    Lays Nov–Mar on Indian Subcontinent, mostly Jan–Feb in N, Apr in Sri Lanka; eggs in Dec in Malay Peninsula; juveniles in Jun... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Generally uncommon. Apparently more numerous in Sri Lanka, where said to be possibly one of commonest strigids; local in... 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., Kirwan, G.M. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Brown Fish-owl (Ketupa zeylonensis). 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 22 February 2020).