Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Near Threatened

Ryukyu Scops-owl (Otus elegans)


French: Petit-duc élégant German: Schmuck-Zwergohreule Spanish: Autillo elegante
Other common names: Elegant Scops-owl

Ephialtes elegans


, 1852,

at sea off the coast of Japan


Probably part of a species-group centred on O. manadensis (which see). Formerly treated as conspecific with O. sunia, and until recently placed in O. scops, but separated specifically on basis of vocal characteristics and morphology (comparatively larger feet); has recently been included in O. manadensis, perhaps in error. S race calayensis (said to be morphologically distinct#R#R) placed with O. mantananensis by some, but seems closer to present species, at least on vocal and geographical grounds; interpositus merged with nominate by some authors. Batan population sometimes separated as race batanensis. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • O. e. elegans (Cassin, 1852) – throughout Ryukyu Is (Nansei Shoto), S Japan.
  • O. e. interpositus Nagamichi Kuroda, 1923 – Daito Is (Minami-daito-jima).
  • O. e. botelensis Nagamichi Kuroda, 1928 – Lanyu I, off SE Taiwan.
  • O. e. calayensis McGregor, 1904 – islands of Batan, Sabtang and Calayan, off N Philippines.
  • Descriptive notes

    18–22 cm; mean 121 g; wingspan 60 cm. Long-winged (wing length 165–178 mm), medium-sized scops-owl. Drab brown or dark reddish-brown above, pale below, with fine... read more


    Male call a hoarse, cough-like noise, “uhu” or “kuru” or “u-kuruk... read more


    Subtropical dense evergreen forest; locally, in or near villages. From sea-level to at least 550 m... read more

    Food and feeding

    Primarily insects, including beetles, moths, crickets and grasshoppers; also spiders, and some small mammals and small birds. Recorded... read more


    Lays Mar–Jul. Nest in tree hole, often old woodpecker cavity. On Lanyu I, where no primary cavity nesters exist, > 60% of natural... read more


    Probably mainly resident; N populations suggested to be partly migratory.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Currently considered Near Threatened. Restricted-range species: present in Nansei Shoto EBA. CITES II. Common in suitable habitat throughout Ryukyus... 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). Ryukyu Scops-owl (Otus elegans). 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 14 December 2019).