Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Mountain Scops-owl (Otus spilocephalus)


French: Petit-duc tacheté German: Fuchs-Zwergohreule Spanish: Autillo montano
Other common names: Vandewater's Scops-owl (vandewateri), Stresemann's Scops-owl (“stresemanni”)

Ephialtes spilocephalus


, 1846,

Darjeeling, India


Probably closest to O. balli and O. alfredi. Previously considered by some to include O. angelinae and O. longicornis as races, but differences in vocalizations indicate that all are separate species. Race vandewateri sometimes treated as full species, and sometimes as race of O. angelinae, but morphology and voice suggest better regarded as race of present species. Mt Kerinci (Sumatra) foothills form described as stresemanni regarded as a race variously of present species, of O. icterorhynchus or of O. balli, or even as full species forming a species-group with either of last two: known only from single specimen collected in 1914, but has not been found since and its status is uncertain; although has been suggested as being a pale form of vandewateri, this not borne out by comparison of the few available museum specimens; specimen considered to be hybrid between O. spilocephalus vandewateri and O. rufescens, since all characters intermediate#R. Current racial divisions and geographical limits obscure, and taxonomic status of some forms uncertain#R#R; populations in Bangladesh, Nagaland and Manipur, here included in nominate, are sometimes separated as race rupchandi. Eight subspecies presently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • O. s. huttoni (A. O. Hume, 1870) – N Pakistan E in Himalayan foothills to C Nepal.
  • O. s. spilocephalus (Blyth, 1846) – C Nepal E to NE India (Arunachal Pradesh) and N & W Myanmar.
  • O. s. latouchi (Rickett, 1900) – N Thailand and Laos to SE China and Hainan.
  • O. s. hambroecki (Swinhoe, 1870) – Taiwan.
  • O. s. siamensis Robinson & Kloss, 1922 – C & S Thailand to S Vietnam.
  • O. s. vulpes (Ogilvie-Grant, 1906) – S Malay Peninsula.
  • O. s. vandewateri (Robinson & Kloss, 1916) – Sumatra.
  • O. s. luciae (Sharpe, 1888) – Borneo.
  • Descriptive notes

    18–20 cm; 53–112 g (mass varies by race). Smallish scops-owl with highly variable plumage; some races polymorphic. Nominate race with facial disc whitish to light... read more


    Very vocal. Clear, piercing, two-note whistle, “plew-plew” or “he-he”,... read more


    Dense evergreen forest, especially with chestnut, oak and rhododendron, sometimes with pine; also... read more

    Food and feeding

    Primarily moths, beetles, mantises, cicadas and other insects; also takes small rodents and birds, and perhaps lizards. Hunts mainly... read more


    Little recorded information regarding breeding in all but India and Pakistan (huttoni and nominate races). Lays Mar–Jun in... read more


    Sedentary in most of range, but descends into warmer valleys of Himalayas in winter.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Reasonably common throughout range. Locally common from Pakistan across to Myanmar, but scarce in Bangladesh; described as... 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). Mountain Scops-owl (Otus spilocephalus). 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 17 November 2019).