The Sri Lanka Bay Owl- An Elusive Species found deep in the Rainforests of Sri Lanka
The Sri Lanka Bay Owl (Phodilus assimilis) is a species of bay owl in the family Tytonidae. It is endemic to the island of Sri Lanka and the Western Ghats in Kerala, South-Western India. It was considered a subspecies of the Oriental Bay Owl (Phodilus badius) but is now treated as a full species due to its distinctive call, plumage and disjunction distribution.
Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist montane forests and subtropical or tropical high-altitude grassland. It is threatened by habitat loss.
The Sri Lanka Bay Owl was described by the English politician and naturalist Allan Octavian Hume in 1873 but it was only in 1877 that he introduced the binomial name Phodilus assimilis. The genus name Phodilus is from the Ancient Greek phōs for “light” or “daylight” and deilos for “timid” or “cowardly”. The specific epithet assimilis is the Latin for “similar” or “like”.
It was earlier considered a subspecies of the Oriental Bay Owl Phodilus Badius but is now treated as a separate species based on differences in call and plumage.
Their call is almost “un-owl like” given its almost whistling pitch and melodious tune. When visiting the deep tropical rainforests of Sinharaja and Kitulgala one might hear this distinctive call at night. But seeing one in its day roost is a completely different story.
Many seasoned birders have rarely seen this extremely shy and elusive bird, who is found very rarely even in these parts.
The Sri Lanka Bay Owl is by far the rarest and most difficult species of owl in Sri Lanka to see.
Classic Wild has developed a close bond with the local communities bordering these lush lowland rainforests giving us the ability to maintain a close rapport with the village trackers and spotters who enable us to have the best hit rate in finding and spotting this rarest of the rare species for our clientele.