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A photo of a Spotted Owlet (Athene brama)
Spotted Owlet

Spotted Owlet

Athene brama

The Spotted Owlet, Athene brama, is a diminutive and robust bird, measuring a mere 21 centimeters in length. Its upperparts are cloaked in a grey-brown plumage, generously dotted with white spots, while its underparts are a pristine white, streaked with shades of brown. The bird's facial disc is rather pale, and its eyes are highlighted by a striking yellow iris. A distinctive white neckband and supercilium are also present. Both sexes appear similar in plumage, and the species is characterized by a deeply undulating flight pattern.

Identification Tips

When attempting to identify the Spotted Owlet, look for its small size and stocky build. The heavy white spotting on the grey-brown back and the streaked brown on white underparts are key features. The pale face with a yellow iris, white neckband, and supercilium are also distinctive. The flight is notably undulating, which can aid in identification from a distance.


The Spotted Owlet is a versatile species, commonly found in open habitats that range from farmland to urban environments. It has shown remarkable adaptability, thriving in areas of human habitation and even bustling cities.


This species has a broad range across tropical Asia, from the mainland of India extending to Southeast Asia. It is a common resident within its range, with various subspecies adapted to local conditions.


The Spotted Owlet is primarily nocturnal but is frequently observed during daylight hours. When disturbed, it engages in a curious bobbing of the head and fixes intruders with an intense stare. These owlets are often betrayed by the cacophony of smaller birds that mob them while they rest in trees during the day.

Song & Calls

The vocal repertoire of the Spotted Owlet includes a harsh and loud churring and chuckling series of "chirurr-chirurr-chirurr," culminating in a "chirwak-chirwak." These calls are most commonly heard at the break of dawn or just after sunset.


The breeding season for the Spotted Owlet spans from November to April. Courtship involves bill grasping, allopreening, and ritual feeding. The female may engage in vocal duets with the male, accompanied by head bobbing and tail deflection as part of the mating ritual. Nesting occurs in tree or building cavities, with a typical clutch consisting of three to four spherical white eggs.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Spotted Owlet is diverse, including a variety of insects and small vertebrates. In certain regions, they have been observed to predominantly consume insect prey, while in others, rodents form a significant part of their diet, particularly prior to the breeding season. They are also known to prey on bats, toads, small snakes, scorpions, and molluscs.

Conservation status

The Spotted Owlet is currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. It is also included in CITES Appendix II, indicating that while it is not currently threatened with extinction, it may become so without trade controls.

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