Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Oriental Scops-owl (Otus sunia)


French: Petit-duc d’Orient German: Orient-Zwergohreule Spanish: Autillo oriental

Scops sunia


, 1836,



Sometimes treated as conspecific with O. scops, and has been considered conspecific both with O. senegalensis and with O. brucei, or to include O. enganensis, O. umbra, O. mirus, O. mindorensis, O. elegans and O. mantananensis as races; all now shown to be specifically distinct on basis mainly of vocalizations. Recent phylogenetic studies suggest that present species may be closest to O. socotranus and O. insularis#R#R. Races distans and nicobaricus previously in HBW considered synonymous with modestus, but reinstated here following recent authors#R#R; form modestus treated in one recent work#R as full species, evidently on account of a marked difference in song, but morphological differences remain to be clearly identified and evaluated and even song represents a clear derivative of that of sunia. Original specimen of O. alius initially assigned to race nicobaricus (at that time = modestus) of present species. Proposed race khasiensis (from Meghalaya, in NE India) synonymized with nominate. Nine subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • O. s. japonicus Temminck & Schlegel, 1844 – Japan S to C Kyushu.
  • O. s. stictonotus (Sharpe, 1875) – SE Siberia, Sakhalin, NE China, N Korea; in winter S China S to N Malay Peninsula.
  • O. s. malayanus (Hay, 1845) – S China (Yunnan E to Guangdong); in winter from S Myanmar (Tenasserim) and extreme S Thailand S to Sumatra, Bangka and Belitung.
  • O. s. sunia (Hodgson, 1836) – Oriental Scops-owl – N Pakistan E through Himalayas to Bangladesh and NE India, and S in India to Odisha.
  • O. s. rufipennis (Sharpe, 1875) – S India.
  • O. s. leggei Ticehurst, 1923 – Sri Lanka.
  • O. s. distans Friedmann & Deignan, 1939 – Myanmar, N & W Thailand and Indochina.
  • O. s. nicobaricus (A. O. Hume, 1876) – C Nicobars.
  • O. s. modestus (Walden, 1874) – Walden's Scops Owl – Andamans.
  • Descriptive notes

    17–21 cm; 75–95 g; wingspan 43–53 cm. Occurs in grey-brown and rufous morphs. Grey-brown morph similar to corresponding plumage of O. scops,... read more


    Utters three “toik” calls in rhythmic phase, repeated at regular short intervals; in... read more


    Prefers deciduous and mixed forest but not uncommon in open evergreen forest, and found also in... read more

    Food and feeding

    Primarily insects and spiders; also small rodents and small birds. Infrared video-recording at nests in China showed that invertebrates (... read more


    Lays mid Feb–Apr/May in India and Pakistan, Apr–Jun in Siberia and China, May–Jun in Japan. Nest a hollow in a tree trunk... read more


    N populations largely migratory, S ones resident. Birds from Siberia to N China and Japan winter... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Varies in abundance regionally: scarce and very local in Pakistan, and scarce but more widespread in Sri Lanka, but fairly... 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., Kirwan, G.M. & Marks, J.S. (2019). Oriental Scops-owl (Otus sunia). 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 15 December 2019).