Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Northern White-faced Owl (Ptilopsis leucotis)


French: Petit-duc à face blanche German: Nordbüscheleule Spanish: Autillo cariblanco norteño
Other common names: Northern White-faced Scops-owl, White-faced Owl (when lumped with P. granti)

Strix leucotis


, 1820,



Often treated as conspecific with P. granti; significant differences in DNA and vocal patterns, however, indicate that the two populations are specifically distinct. Pale birds in Sudan and dark ones elsewhere have been treated as racially distinct (as margarethae and nigrovertex, respectively), but both considered merely colour morphs. Monotypic.


Senegambia E to Somalia, S to N DRCongo, N Uganda and C Kenya.

Descriptive notes

24–25 cm; 204 g (mean of 16 birds); wingspan 50 cm. Facial disc off-white, outlined in black; crown and nape light grey with dark grey vermicula­tions; long ear-... read more


Male song a mellow “whoh whoow”, repeated at intervals of 4–8 seconds; female... read more


Savanna and dry woodland with sparse ground cover, semi-desert with scattered thorn trees and... read more

Food and feeding

Small mammals such as rodents and shrews; also birds, small reptiles and invertebrates including moths, beetles, crickets, spiders and... read more


Lays Jan–Sept; in Ghana said to breed Oct–Jan. Monogamous; solitary, but sometimes several pairs within 200 m of each other,... read more


Resident; possibly some short-distance movements depending on rains and prey abundance.

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Locally common to uncommon throughout its range; less common and more local in E of range; rare resident in Somalia, only... 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. (2020). Northern White-faced Owl (Ptilopsis leucotis). 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 18 January 2020).