Oriental scops owl
The Oriental scops owl (Otus sunia) is a species of scops owl found in eastern and southern Asia.It can be distinguished from the Collared scops owl by well marked underparts, a whitish scapular stripe and lack of pale a collar. There are two color morphs, namely grey and rufous. Sexes are alike. Some individuals may freeze with eyes half closed when disturbed.
Photographing the bird, characteristics, distribution & breeding and the necessary details:
Photographing the bird :-
The Oriental scops owl is a small nocturnal bird of prey and therefore is difficult to spot during the daytime and with their well camouflaged appearance spotting one becomes more difficult, they can easily blend with branches of a tree. So the best way to look for them is in the evening by tracking their calls. But even though when the raptor can be easily tracked in the evening, approaching it becomes more difficult as it has a much better eyesight after dusk. So it would tend to fly away if disturbed.
Carrying a small flashlight would help out as the raptor won’t be able to see beyond the flashlight at dark. But also a red filter or a dim flashlight should be used as the strong light can cause temporary blindness to the raptor as their eyes are extremely sensitive to bright light.
The rufous morph that I found has a pale rufous facial disk with a narrow dark rim. There is whitish scapular stripe around the blackish-grey bill. The eyes of the Oriental scops owl are yellow with white brows. The area just below the nape or the hindneck has an indistinct rufous, black and white collar. Upperparts are rather plain rufous with few streaks and dark streaking on the crown. Scapulars have whitish-buff spots with blackish edges. Wings and tail have pale-dark bands while underparts are somewhat buffish-white towards the belly.
Distribution & Breeding :-
The Oriental scops Owl is a nocturnal raptor and stays mostly active after dusk. During the day it roosts singly or in pairs in dense foliage, against a tree trunk or in holes. Usually found near open or semi-open woodland, with scattered trees and wooded riverside belts. Their distribution range occurs throughout North Pakistan, India , East Nepal to Bangladesh and Assam, Sri Lanka, East Asia from Japan to East Siberia, and China. They are also resident on Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
They Breed during the month of February to May in the Indian subcontinent. The male begins by singing near potential nesting sites, which are usually holes in trees or walls. It welcomes the female by going into the hole and singing at the entrance. 3-4 white eggs are laid on the floor of the nest.during the incubation period the female alone incubates the eggs while the male brings food .
Their diet includes mainly insects and spiders though occasionally they would also pick up small vertebrates, hunting is done both from perch and flight.
Call : uk – rook rook , uk – rook rook
My experience and suggestions :-
I photographed my first Oriental scops owl during my first Kaziranga tour in Assam, India. It was our day before the last day in Kaziranga, all our safaris were over and we had nothing much to do at evening, so our guide Mr. Biswajit Das took us to a tea garden behind our stay. It was 7pm and pitch black, without flashlight it was arduous to walk on the craggy tracks . But the view was celestial, above the sky was studded with stars and below the gardens were twinkling with fireflies and the horizon almost faded away.
There was sheer silence, even a single footstep was audible. After walking for sometime we heard calls, at first we weren’t able to identify the calls but soon enough as the calls became more clear we were sure that it was some sort of owl. Mr. Biswajit Das confirmed that it was a Oriental Scops owl. The surroundings were cold and soundless so we played calls and within few secs we saw something to flutter above us.
And yes, it was a Oriental scops owl. At first it didn’t sit on any perch then suddenly it came and sat on my back for few secs, before it realised that I was not a tree or branch. Then it went and sat on a branch on a nearby tree. We didn’t have any proper flashlight and so I made just few photographs within 2 mins with a very low shutter speed because of the dim light source and then left the place.
The next day we again went to the tea garden and this time to my surprise it responded more quickly, as we sat below a tree and played an Oriental scops owl’s call so it came and sat on a branch just above our head. But this time it was not alone, another Oriental scops owl joined the first one and sat on a perch above the first one. After making few photographs we turned off the flashlight and also the call. To our surprise even when it could see us clearly then, it didn’t fly away but sat on the branch for almost 10-15mins more and started calling sitting just above us, which also gave me an opportunity to record its call through my cellphone.
The Oriental scops owl was actually the best experience that happened to me in Kaziranga, Assam.
Few suggestions that I would like to mention are :-
Raptors, especially nocturnal ones like owls are extremely sensitive to bright light, use red filter or a dim flashlight to take pictures. Bright light can cause temporary blindness to them.
If calls are used make sure not to play them for much longer as it might create a distress to the bird when it can’t infer to the source.
Learn their calls for easy identification and also to track them in the dark.
If you have any queries then please do ask questions.
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