by Nick Upton
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Finding White-fronted Scops Owl Otus sagittatus

In February 2007 I made a number of visits to the only 2 sites worldwide where it is possible to see the White-fronted Scops Owl.

Having heard White-fronted Scops Owl previously in May 2006 I decided it was about time to put in some serious effort and I managed to see the Owls at both Kaeng Krachan National Park during 15-19th February and the forest fragment close to Khao Nor Chuchi Wildlife Sanctuary on 25th and 26th February. I saw the Owls 2 out of 3 nights at Kaeng Krachan and on both dates at KNC.

White-fronted Scops Owl
(Photo by Giuliano Gerra & Silvio Sommazzi)

Detailed site descriptions follow but first some short facts about White-Fronted Scops Owl,Otus sagittatus:

  • It is listed as vulnerable in the red data book.
  • It is endemic to the Thai-Malay peninsula where it occurs only in lowland or foothill forest that has been largely destroyed or degraded in its range.
  • The call is a strange drumming that only has been recorded a few years back.
  • It remains poorly known with only very few sites where (fairly) recent sightings/recordings have been made ; Pasoh in Malaysia, Hala-Bala, a site near Khao Nor Chuchi, Kaeng Krachan, Khlong Saeng and Huai Kha Kaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in Thailand. Historical records come from Myanmar (Tenasserim) and it is to be expected that the species must have some strongholds there as the country is largely unexplored by birders.
  • It has not been described in the literature but I can tell you that they love tree-forks to sit/hide/nest? in, which is something to remember if you go try to see them.

More photos can be viewed on the Oriental Bird Images Website.

White-fronted Scops Owl at Kaeng Krachan National Park
This is probably the best place to go with loads of good birds to see in the daytime whilst waiting for darkness and conveniently located close to Bangkok. You’ll find directions on the internet: Kaeng Krachan National Park. Less attractive to some visitors however will be that you have to camp out and not to be afraid of walking in the dark with Elephants and Leopards at home in the park. I’ve never had any problems however and it is highly unlikely to run into them. Visiting Kaeng Krachan without your own transport is not a problem really as far as the Owls are concerned; they are approximately 1.5 km walking distance from Bang Krang campsite.

I saw White-fronted Scops Owl at the first stream crossing on the jeep-track leading up from Bang Krang campsite. Got them both right before and after the stream next to the track. They started calling not before it was completely dark but then kept calling for hours. I didn’t have to, but you might need to play a few seconds tape to start them up. (Got them this way at KNC when things started off quiet) DO NOT overuse this as it is not good for the birds and they will NOT come in to tape so there is no need to keep playing.

You might need to walk into the forest for a few metres to see them when they’re calling a bit more inside, be careful!!! White-fronted Scops Owl has been seen at the second stream crossing too. Probably these were the same pair of birds that is present at the first stream crossing stake-out, as it is only 300-400 m apart.

Suthin Niraphai
Suthin Niraphai can be contacted at
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Suthin provided details of the stake-out near Khao Nor Chu Chi. However, I have been asked by birding guides in Thailand not to publish the location here. I have chosen to respect this request.
Nick Upton, 25th May 2007
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