- Tawny-browed Owl
 - Tawny-browed Owl
 - Tawny-browed Owl
 - Tawny-browed Owl

Tawny-browed Owl Pulsatrix koeniswaldiana Scientific name definitions

Denver W. Holt, Regan Berkley, Caroline Deppe, Paula L. Enríquez, Julie L. Petersen, José Luis Rangel Salazar, Kelley P. Segars, Kristin L. Wood, Eduardo de Juana, and Jeffrey S. Marks
Version: 1.0 — Published March 4, 2020
Text last updated January 8, 2018

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This Atlantic Forest endemic is found in humid tropical forest from sea level to at least 1500 m, in southeast Brazil to extreme northeast Argentina, and easternmost Paraguay. Generally similar in plumage to the much more widespread Spectacled Owl (Pulsatrix perspicillata), the head and upperparts are largely dark brown, contrasting markedly with the broad buffish-white facial markings, and buffy-orange underparts. The Tawny-browed Owl, like its congenerics, is usually found in pairs, which frequently duet, giving low, descending calls that accelerate towards their end. This owl feeds on birds and large insects, as well as small mammals, and is primarily nocturnal, although they may be active by late afternoon. However, very little is known concerning this species’ breeding behavior.


c. 44 cm (1); male 405–562 g (2), female 331–670 g (2). Facial disc brown, encircled by ochre, with white rictal bristles near bill, small white chin patch and creamy eyebrows ; uniform dark chocolate-brown above, flight-feathers faintly barred with whitish, tail more prominently barred white; breast dark brown, forming broad, distinct band; belly buff; rest of underparts light ochre, often with slight hint of vermiculations; tarsus feathered; irides chestnut-brown; cere and bill yellowish-horn; toes whitish-grey, sometimes with greenish hue (1). Differs from P. perspicillata in ochre and creamy (not white) “spectacles” and facial rim, and smaller size (wing length 300–320 mm versus 305–384 mm in perspicillata (1) ); from P. melanota in lack of obvious barring on breast and belly. Juvenile similar to P. perspicillata, but eyes dark, face brown rather than black.

Systematics History

Thought to be closest to P. melanota. Sometimes treated as conspecific with latter, but morphology and vocalizations differ. Monotypic.




E Paraguay, extreme NE Argentina (Misiones) and S Brazil (Espírito Santo S to N Rio Grande do Sul).


Humid, tropical forest and more open woodland; also Araucaria-dominated forest. In S Misiones, Argentina, recorded in degraded and marginal forest; in Brazil, occurred with nearly equal frequency in six size classes of forest fragments ranging from 10–180 ha (3). From sea-level to c. 1500 m elevation (1).


Probably resident (1).

Diet and Foraging

Small mammals, birds  and large insects; probably also other small vertebrates. Stomach of road-killed bird in Brazil contained a small spider, beetle, moth, and two insect larvae (4). Nocturnal; forages in canopy; hunts from perch  . Bird perched on light pole in urban area perhaps there to feed on insects attracted to light (5).

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

Low, descending sequence of guttural, ventriloquial “brrr brrr brrr brrr” or “ut ut ut ut ut” notes, accelerating and weaker at end (1); female responds with higher-pitched call.


Poorly studied; season uncertain. Nest in tree hole  , usually 2 eggs; incubation c. 5 weeks, by female; nestling with white down and dark facial disc; young leave nest at 5–6 weeks, unable to fly; cared for by both parents  for some months further (1).

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Restricted-range species: present in Atlantic Forest Lowlands EBA. Considered relatively rare, or at best uncommon; probably overlooked. No information on global numbers or population trends. Has apparently decreased in Argentina owing to timber-cutting in Misiones, although still regularly recorded and possibly locally not uncommon. In Brazil, occurs in several protected areas, such as Sooretama Biological Reserve and Itatiaia National Park. Suffers some road casualties (4, 6). Species should be monitored simply because of scale of habitat loss in its range, and because it is too poorly known to speculate on its true status.

Distribution of the Tawny-browed Owl
  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the Tawny-browed Owl

Recommended Citation

Holt, D. W., R. Berkley, C. Deppe, P. L. Enríquez, J. L. Petersen, J. L. Rangel Salazar, K. P. Segars, K. L. Wood, E. de Juana, and J. S. Marks (2020). Tawny-browed Owl (Pulsatrix koeniswaldiana), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.tabowl1.01