Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Japanese Scops-owl (Otus semitorques)


French: Petit-duc du Japon German: Japan-Zwergohreule Spanish: Autillo japonés

Otus semitorques

Temminck and Schlegel

, 1844,

Kyushu, Japan


Traditionally considered to belong to species-group centred on O. bakkamoena (which see). Formerly treated as part of a highly variable O. bakkamoena, but significant differences in vocalizations, as well as in eye colour, indicate separate species. Race ussuriensis formerly placed in O. lettia, but is closer to semitorques in voice and plumage characters, and also intermediate in eye colour; recent molecular analysis shows ussuriensis to be only distantly related to O. lettia#R, and another recent molecular study indicates that Korean population traditionally regarded as belonging in O. lettia (ussuriensis) is very close to semitorques#R. Smaller, redder race pryeri has been considered a separate species#R. Proposed race aurorae (N China coast) included in ussuriensis. Three subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • O. s. ussuriensis (Buturlin, 1910) – Sakhalin, Ussuriland and NE China.
  • O. s. semitorques Temminck & Schlegel, 1844 – Korean Peninsula, Jeju I, S Kuril Is (Urup S to Kunashir), and Japan from Hokkaido S to Yakushima, including Sado, Tsushima and Goto Is.
  • O. s. pryeri (Gurney, Sr, 1889) – S Izu Is (Hachijo) and S Ryukyu Is (Okinawa to Iriomote).
  • Descriptive notes

    21–26 cm; c. 130 g; wingspan 55–66 cm. Medium-sized, greyish-brown scops-owl with relatively long, pointed wings (wing length 153–196 mm); p7 longest.... read more


    Male gives deep “whook” regularly repeated, sometimes at long intervals; many... read more


    Various forested habitats including lowland forest, wooded plains and forested hillsides, from sea-... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds on a wide variety of taxa, mostly invertebrates (insects, millipedes, centipedes, crustaceans) but also small rodents (especially... read more


    Nests from Mar–Jul; on Okinawa I, lays occurs from early Mar to early Apr and fledging occurs from early May to mid Jun. Nest in... read more


    Depending on taxon, resident (pryeri), mostly resident (semitorques) or largely... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Locally common, but no data on global population size; very common in Tsushima; fairly common in Kyushu, Shikoku, Honshu... 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). Japanese Scops-owl (Otus semitorques). 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).