Family Barn-owls (Tytonidae)

Least Concern

Oriental Bay-owl (Phodilus badius)


French: Phodile calong German: Maskeneule Spanish: Lechuza cornuda oriental
Other common names: Bay Owl (when lumped with P. assimilis)

Strix badia


, 1821,



Relationships uncertain. Although occasionally considered to include P. prigoginei as a race, latter seems to exhibit much too marked differences. Until recently considered conspecific with P. assimilus,  which was separated from present species in one regional work#R on account of song being a “series of complex... whining, tremulous whistled notes, much slower than Oriental, with much more complex, longer, multi-element notes” vs “loud, eerie, hesitant series of highly musical, quavering, melancholy, fluty whistles, each successive note rising slightly in pitch” (3); tail more densely, evenly and completely barred (eight regular bars across feathers vs six irregular bars that do not reach edges of vanes) (2); darker coloration above (less rufous, more chestnut) (1); spotting on crown of most individuals (absent in nearest-neighbour race P. b. saturatus), and larger white spotting on upperparts (vestigial in saturatus) (1). That same publication#R also referred to the “vinous-pink forehead-patch not including top of crown (so face more heart-shaped)”, but this seems variable among specimens. Taxonomic status of SE Asian forms requires clarification: birds of Thailand sometimes assigned to saturatus and sometimes to nominate badius, with those of Myanmar considered intermediate; present arrangement, with populations from N & C Myanmar E to Vietnam and China placed with Indian birds in saturatus, and those of S Myanmar and peninsular Thailand in nominate, perhaps tentative, and extent of possible intergradation between the two in C? & S Myanmar and SW Thailand undetermined. Race arixuthus may be untenable, as based on unique type. Also, single record from E Philippines (Samar) described as a separate race, riverae; included in nominate race in recent works, although size and colour characters in type description suggest closer affinities to saturatus, or possibly a valid race, but specimen destroyed in 1945 and no further conclusions possible. Four subspecies tentatively recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. b. saturatus Robinson, 1927 – Sikkim and NE India, N & C Myanmar and Thailand (except peninsula) E to Vietnam and S China (S Yunnan, SW Guangxi Zhuang, Hainan I); presence in Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh unconfirmed.
  • P. b. badius (Horsfield, 1821) – Malay Peninsula and Greater Sundas (including Nias I, off NW Sumatra); possibly also E Philippines.
  • P. b. arixuthus Oberholser, 1932 – Middle Natuna Is (Bunguran).
  • P. b. parvus Chasen, 1937 – Belitung I, off SE Sumatra.
  • Descriptive notes

    23–29 cm; 255–308 g (n = 5). Smallish owl with rather short legs and wings and short ear-tufts projecting out from sides of head. Chestnut-bay above,... read more


    Wide variety of calls. In breeding season, once described as surpassing all other owls in appalling... read more


    Evergreen and mixed deciduous forest, landward edge of mangroves, partially cleared land and dense... read more

    Food and feeding

    Small mammals (e.g. bats, rats and mice), birds, lizards, snakes, frogs and large insects, particularly beetles, but also grasshoppers;... read more


    Nests from Mar–May in Sikkim, India; nests with eggs found Oct–Dec in Borneo and Mar–Jul in Java; calls most frequently... read more


    Presumably sedentary, with evidence of some movement, probably post-breeding dispersal of juveniles... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Generally considered rare throughout its range, although thought to be relatively common in S Malaysia, especially in... read more

    Recommended citation

    Bruce, M.D., Kirwan, G.M. & Marks, J.S. (2019). Oriental Bay-owl (Phodilus badius). 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 12 December 2019).