Scientific Name:

Otus ireneae

Population Status:

Endangered

Body Length:

6 in (16-17cm)

Wingspan:

4.4-4.8 in (112-124mm)

Weight:

2 oz (57g)

Conservation Projects


What makes a raptor a raptor?

Did you know?

  • The Sokoke Scops Owl was only first discovered in 1965!
  • The Sokoke Scops Owl weighs about as much as a tennis ball!

The Peregrine Fund has studied the Sokoke Scops Owl, particularly in its range within Kenya. Several papers have been written about our findings, which are important information-sharing tools for scientists and anyone else interested in this species. Additionally, our conservation efforts through habitat protection, education, and community outreach extend to all raptor species, including this owl. We also supply literature to researchers from our avian research library, which helps scientists around the world gather and share important information on raptor conservation.

The Sokoke Scops Owl is a tiny owl found in a small area within the continent of Africa. More specifically, it is endemic to eastern Africa and found only in two countries: Kenya and Tanzania. In Kenya, it is mainly found in the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest - a protected area along the coast of Kenya, and in the Dakatcha Woodlands. In Tanzania, the only known population is an an area known as the Usambara Mountains.

This small owl prefers woodland habitats, often dominated by species such as Cynometra. These woodlands can be dense with relatively low canopies and thick tangles of brush and vines below.

The Sokoke Scops Owl is one of the smallest scops owl in the world. This owl comes in two color morphs: the grey morph and the rufous morph. As you may have guessed, grey morph individuals are more greyish, while rufous morph individuals are more reddish in color.

The Sokoke Scops Owl appears to be quite territorial. This means that its home range - the area it regularly uses to find food and a mate - barely overlaps or doesn't overlap at all with any other Sokoke Scops Owl home range. Individual owls have bee known to have a home range close to 22 acres (9 hectares) in size, while pairs might have a home range of closer to 27 acres (11 hectares).

Like most owl species, the Sokoke Scops Owl is nocturnal - meaning it is most actively hunting, flying, seeking mates, or conducting any other owl business during the night. It is usually most active right after dusk and just before dawn. During the day, of course, is when this owl is able to catch up on some much needed rest.

Researchers studying this owl discovered that when the moon isn't as bright, or if it is covered with clouds, indvidual Sokoke Scops Owls tend to travel further from their roosts than they do on well-lit nights.

The Sokoke Scops Owl, like other owls, has asymmetrical ear openings. This means that one ear opening is located higher up on one side of the head, while the other ear opening is located lower on the other side of the head. There can also be one ear opening that is a bit farther forward on the head while the ear opening on the other side of the head is a bit farther back. The ear positions can be any combination of high, low, forward, and back! This helps owls better triangulate sounds, thus making finding prey that much easier.

Like so many other wildlife species, the Sokoke Scops Owl is in trouble - mainly due to habitat loss and degradation. In fact, many of the trees they need for nesting have been and continue to be cut down! And the fact that its range is so limited to begin with, puts this species even more at risk. Scientists from The Peregrine Fund estimate that the population dropped by more than 20% in a little over 15 years! In 1998 the species was listed as "Vulnerable" according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Today, sadly, it now listed as "Endangered".

The Sokoke Scops Owl is primarily an insectivore, meaning it feeds on a whole lot of insects! Its favorite food, it seems, are delicious, crunchy beetles - including dung beetles. But, it will also feed on crickets, grasshoppers, ants, and stick insects.

Though little is known about the hunting behavior of the Sokoke Scops Owl, one biologist studying the diet of this species observed the owl pounce on its prey from a perch, and then return to the same perch to feed.

Though it might be hard to believe, there isn't any information about the breeding habits or biology of the Sokoke Scops Owl. Its limited range, nocturnal habits and dense habitat make it a difficult bird to study, for sure. Biologists believe that this small owl probably nests in tree cavities, but this information needs to be confirmed.

Though the Sokoke Scops Owl doesn't live anywhere near Boise, Idaho, you can still learn a lot about owls with a visit to our Velma Morriso n Interpretive Center at The Peregrine Fund headquarters. The visitor center at our World Center for Birds of Preyincludes owls among its avian ambassadors, including a Eurasian Eagle Owl, a Verreaux's Eagle-owl and a Western Screech Owl. This is a great chance to see owls up close and learn about the wonderful and interesting adaptations they have in order to survive in their respective habitats. There is also a touch table with owl feathers and other natural objects available for exploration.


Photos needed! If you are a photographer and would be willing to donate photos of for use on this site, please contact grin@peregrinefund.org