Family Barn-owls (Tytonidae)

Least Concern

Sri Lanka Bay-owl (Phodilus assimilis)


French: Phodile de Ceylan German: Ceylonmaskeneule Spanish: Lechuza cornuda de Ceilán
Other common names: Ceylon Bay-owl

Phodilus assimilis

A. O. Hume

, 1877,

Sri Lanka


Until recently considered conspecific with P. badius, but separated 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. Race ripleyi may be untenable, as based on unique type. Two subspecies recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. a. ripleyi Hussain & Reza Khan, 1978 – Anaimalai–Nelliampathi Hills, W Ghats, in SW India.
  • P. a. assimilis A. O. Hume, 1877 – C & S Sri Lanka.
  • Descriptive notes

    22–27 cm; 230 g (1 injured bird). Like P. badius, a smallish owl with short legs and wings, short ear-tufts, vee-shaped frontal shield and large eyes... read more


    Main call a series of 3–4 tremulous whistles, the notes initially rising and then falling;... read more


    Wet evergreen and mixed evergreen-deciduous forest, mangroves, partially harvested forest, on level... read more

    Food and feeding

    Very poorly known. Like P. badius, strictly nocturnal. Probably hunts from perch beneath forest canopy, where it... read more


    Little information. First nesting record 3 young taken by villagers in Sri Lanka in Nov; young were of different sizes, indicating that... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Thought to be rare throughout range, although difficult to detect because of nocturnal habits and thus probably more common... read more

    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Sri Lanka Bay-owl (Phodilus assimilis). 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 19 February 2020).