Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Himalayan Owl (Strix nivicolum)


French: Chouette de l’Himalaya German: Himalajakauz Spanish: Cárabo del Himalaya
Other common names: Himalayan Wood-owl, Chinese Tawny Owl

Syrnium nivicolum


, 1845,

Himalaya = Nepal


Until recently considered conspecific with S. aluco, but differs in having entirely different song (a double “huhu”, repeated with a space of several seconds, vs the two-stage “huuu (long pause) wu-hrrruuu” of aluco (4); considerably darker plumage (dark brown vs grey-brown, greatly reduced white admixed with grey) (2); markedly more strongly barred tail (2); overall similar size but shorter tail (160–192 mm vs 205–220 mm in published data#R) (at least 1). Proposed race obrieni, from Lushai Hills, in NE India (Mizoram), subsumed within nominate. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. n. nivicolum (Blyth, 1845) – NW India from W Himachal E through Nepal to SE China, S to N Myanmar and N Indochina.
  • S. n. ma (A. H. Clark, 1907) – NE China (Jilin) and Korea.
  • S. n. yamadae Yamashina, 1936 – Taiwan.
  • Descriptive notes

    35–40 cm; 375–392 g. Medium-sized, polymorphic Strix with round head, whitish throat; differs from highly similar S. aluco in being... read more


    Song consists of two clear, rapid dove-like hoots, “coo-coo”, the second note sometimes... read more


    Occurs in coniferous forests, oak forests and rocky forested ravines from c. 1000–2650 m... read more

    Food and feeding

    Little information. Reported to feed on insects (especially beetles), small mammals and small birds. Nocturnal.


    Very little information. Nests from late winter to spring, laying eggs in tree cavities and crevices in rocks.


    Mostly resident, although may move to lower elevations in winter.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Reported to be fairly common, although no information on global population size or population trends. BirdLife... read more

    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Marks, J.S. (2019). Himalayan Owl (Strix nivicolum). 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 14 December 2019).