Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Madagascar Scops-owl (Otus rutilus)


French: Petit-duc malgache German: Madagaskar-Zwergohreule Spanish: Autillo malgache
Other common names: Malagasy Scops-owl, Rainforest Scops-owl, Torotoroka Scops-owl

Scops rutilus


, 1849,



Probably forms a species-group with O. capnodes, O. pauliani and recently discovered O. moheliensis. Has been considered to include first two, as well as O. pembaensis and O. insularis, as races; vocal comparisons and morphology (size, plumage markings, extent of tarsal feathering) indicate that all are specifically distinct, and recent study found that O. pembaensis and O. insularis were not close relatives of present species#R. Until recently, included O. mayottensis as a subspecies, but mayottensis differs on account of its song (slow sequence of longer, deeper calls vs rapid sequence of brief calls) (3); larger size, with no overlap in wing, bill or tarsus (effect size for tarsus 5.13, score 3); darker underparts and tarsal feathering (at least 1); more prominently streaked and barred throat (at least 1); reduced dark rim of facial disc (ns[1]); much darker background colour overall (ns[1]); less prominent streaking on mantle (ns[1]); and relatively short, less strongly barred tail (ns[1])#R#R. Moreover, population in W separated at species level under available name madagascariensis on basis of voice and plumage#R, but subsequent study suggested that plumage differences small, voices intergrading and genetic distance slight#R. Two subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • O. r. madagascariensis (A. Grandidier, 1867) – Torotoroka Scops-owl – W, S & C Madagascar.
  • O. r. rutilus (Pucheran, 1849) – Rainforest Scops-owl – E Madagascar.
  • Descriptive notes

    22–24 cm; wingspan 53 cm; male 85–107 g, female 112–116 g. Occurs in grey, brown and rufous morphs, with many intermediates; extremely variable. Facial disc... read more


    Fast series of 5–15 short, even-pitched “hoo” or “broo” notes,... read more


    Variety of habitats, ranging from primary and secondary forest to thickets, humid bush country and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mostly insects, especially beetles and moths; possibly some small vertebrates. Strictly nocturnal.


    Little information. Nesting documented in Nov and Dec. Most nests probably in tree cavity; race madagascariensis documented... read more


    Apparently resident.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Generally common and widespread in suitable habitat throughout range. Population size and trend have not been estimated,... 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). Madagascar Scops-owl (Otus rutilus). 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 9 December 2019).