Be Your Own Birder

Weekly Bird: Asian Barred Owlet

When is an owlet not an owlet but really an owl? When it’s an Asian barred owlet (or other species of owlets, of course). Learn more about this small but fierce owl!

Asian Barred Owlet

Asian Barred Owlet – Photo by Imran Shah

Asian Barred Owlet Fun Facts
  • The Asian barred owlet (Taenioglaux cuculoides) is one of 14 owl species with the official “owlet” name, all of which are part of the Strigidae family. The word owlet is also used to refer to baby owls of any owl species.
  • Within their large range, these birds have several different common names, including barred owlet, cuckoo owl, and cuckoo owlet. Because these names are so general, however, it is best to refer to the bird’s scientific name when identifying it so there is no confusion about which species is which.
  • While small at just 9-10 inches long, these owls are still fierce hunters and prey on insects, lizards, amphibians, small mammals, and even small birds. They may even catch small birds or bats in flight.
  • There are 5-8 subspecies of Asian barred owlet that vary in overall range and subtle plumage color differences. As studies continue about these birds, it is possible the subspecies may be split into different distinct owlet species.
  • Unlike many owls, the Asian barred owlet is most active hunting during the day, when its preferred insect prey is also more active and easily captured. This owl is also often heard as part of the dawn chorus.
  • When agitated, this owlet will slowly sway or wag its tail from side to side, creating a threatening display intended to ward off intruders. This behavior is quite distinctive and can help identify the bird.
  • The Asian barred owlet was featured on a 2014 collectible postage stamp in Mozambique. The stamp was issued for 175 meticals (the local currency of Mozambique), which was roughly equivalent to $5.80 USD (at the time of the stamp’s issue).
Adding the Asian Barred Owlet to Your Life List

Most owls can be challenging to add to your life list, and while the Asian barred owlet is considered relatively common in its range from China and southeast Asia into the Himalayan Mountains in northeastern Pakistan, they can still be difficult to find. In some cases, they may be found in gardens and parks, and contacting a local birding group or experienced guide can be a good way to locate an easier-to-see Asian barred owlet. These birds are more common at higher elevations with extensive pine forests and evergreen jungles, but owling trips should be carefully planned for safety. It is helpful that this owl is largely diurnal and hunts during the day, making it somewhat easier to see than more nocturnal owls.

Learn More About the Asian Barred Owlet

Start with these resources to discover more about the Asian barred owlet…

Asian Barred Owlet

Asian Barred Owlet – Photo by Imran Shah

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