An encounter with a Spotted Wood Owl

posted in: Interspecific, Owls | 1

Ho Shuping wrote: “On 10th July, 2006I heard a commotion outside with the repeated calls of a Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris). I looked up and saw this owl that I thought was a Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo) in a tree in my garden.

“Many birds flew by and perched at a distance before taking off again. Then there was an unusual silence. There were two Oriental Magpie-robins (Copsychus saularis), two pairs of Yellow-vented Bulbuls (Pycnonotus goiavier), a pair of Black-naped Orioles (Oriolus chinensis) and I could also hear Long-tailed Parakeets (Psittacula longicauda) flying by and calling (though I am not sure if that was related to the presence of the owl). The owl sat in the tree (seemingly sleeping, occasionally opening an eye) from when I saw it at 1 pm and the last I saw it at 5.30 pm. It was gone when I went to check at 7.00 pm.

“I saw it again two days later in a neighbour’s coconut palm (Cocos nucifera), being actively mobbed by two pairs of Oriental Magpie-robins.

“Is it a Spotted Wood Owl and is it a common garden resident? The bird is reported to be forest edge dwellers and this is the first time I’ve seen one here. I am also surprised it chose to sit in such an exposed tree.”

Our bird specialist R Subaraj replied: “This large owl is a Spotted Wood Owl, an uncommon resident in Singapore with about 20 or so known pairs, mostly from southern and central Singapore but also from the west and east as well as offshore islands like Ubin, Tekong, Sentosa and St. Johns.

“The owl is a resident of forest edge, woodlands, rural countryside and large wooded parkland and gardens. Birds usually roost in a large dense tree but when disturbed, may occasionally roost for the day in a more open tree. Recently fledged birds also tend to roost less sensibly while seeking out a new territory for themselves. We have a recent photo record of this owl at Chinatown and also an earlier record of it being mobbed. We have also posted an account of a Barn Owl (Tyto alba) being mobbed by House Crows (Corvus splendens).

“Predators like owls, snakes and raptors are often subjected to mobbing by various birds (and other animals) as they try to drive it away from their territory. Even owls that roost in dense vegetation may often be mobbed when accidentally discovered by a foraging party of birds.

“This spectacular bird normally starts calling (growls followed by loud barks) around dusk and departs its roost to feed soon after. I have observed it feeding on bats that hawk insects around a street lamp.”

Thank you Shuping, for this interesting encounter and images.

Follow YC Wee:

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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