Owls are mysterious guardians of the night. The Malagasy Scops Owl (Otus rutilus) is a very special bird of the red island: it weighs only a little more than a bar of chocolate and reaches a size of only up to 23 cm. This makes it, as its name suggests, a very small owl. Like all owls, it can move almost silently through the night thanks to its special wings. The edges of its wing feathers are serrated like a comb and swirl the air in flight so that the beating of its wings is totally quiet. Fully spread out, the Madagascar Scops Owl reaches a wingspan of just under 53 cm.
Because it cannot move its eyes, the head of the scops owl is particularly mobile. It has fourteen neck vertebrae instead of the usual seven for lemurs, for example. This allows it to turn its head by up to 270°. The Scops Owl has thereby everywhere the view! The Malagasy Scops Owl is insectivorous, which means it feeds on insects. Since it is nocturnal, these are mainly moths, spiders, and beetles. If a favorable opportunity arises, it also strikes at mouse lemurs and tenrecs.
The Malagasy Scops Owl is not considered endangered. It inhabits the entire east and north coast and individual forests of the west. The preferred habitat is rainforest, but in humid tropical climates, it can also be found in plantations as well as dry forests. The plumage coloration reveals where exactly the Malagasy Scops Owl lives: In the east of Madagascar, mainly brown-red plumage occurs, in the west, however, the Scops Owls are rather gray-brown colored.
The rainy season is the breeding season of the Scops Owl. Once a pair has found each other and successfully mated, the female looks for a breeding cavity in a hollow tree. Between November and December, she lays three or four small, white eggs and raises the plush young. If you want to observe Scops Owls in Madagascar, you should go stalking in the Kirindy Reserve and in the Tsingy de Bemaraha or Ankarafantsika National Parks. Basically, you can find the Scops Owl on the whole island, but the chances of a sighting are not everywhere equally good.
By the way, their sounds betray them even if they are not yet perceived in the darkness: Madagascar Scops Owls call a typical “Hu – hu – hu – hu”, where each call is well separated from the next. If you have heard them once, you can easily recognize them!