Family Barn-owls (Tytonidae)

Least Concern

Greater Sooty-owl (Tyto tenebricosa)


French: Effraie ombrée German: Rußeule Spanish: Lechuza tenebrosa
Other common names: Sooty Owl (when lumped with T. multipunctata)

Strix tenebricosus


, 1845,

River Clarence, New South Wales, Australia


Closely related to T. multipunctata, and commonly treated as conspecific, but differs in size, plumage and voice (see below); these two have occasionally been separated in genus Megastrix. New Guinea form arfaki sometimes placed with T. multipunctata, and may be a separate species; further study needed. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • T. t. arfaki (Schlegel, 1879) – New Guinea, including Yapen I.
  • T. t. tenebricosa (Gould, 1845) – E & SE Australia from Eungella National Park (EC Queensland) to Dandenong and Strzelecki Ranges (Victoria).
  • Descriptive notes

    37–43 cm; male 500–700 g, female 750–1160 g; wingspan 103 cm. When perched, large head and very short tail give “top-heavy” appearance... read more


    Characteristic contact call a piercing, descending shriek, lasting c. 2 seconds, likened to sound... read more


    In Australia, favours deep, wet gully forest dominated by tall eucalypts, with understorey of... read more

    Food and feeding

    Unlike other Tyto species, arboreal mammals form bulk of diet, at least currently, with terrestrial mammals and, rarely,... read more


    Jan–Sept, most laying earlier, peaking around Mar–Apr. Thought to be single-brooded in wild; may not nest each year. Appears to... read more


    Essentially sedentary. In Australia, movements of breeding pairs relate to habitat disturbance and... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. In Australia, not so much rare as seldom recorded. Recent results of surveys indicate a widely distributed owl probably at... read more

    Recommended citation

    Bruce, M.D. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Greater Sooty-owl (Tyto tenebricosa). 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 27 January 2020).