Ryukyu Scops-owl Otus elegans


Justification of Red List Category
This species occurs on a number of small islands and has a very small global range which is under pressure from habitat conversion. However, the species is not regarded as severely fragmented or restricted to a few locations, thus it is listed as Near Threatened.

Population justification
The global population size has not been quantified, but the species is described as common on Nansei-shoto. The total population on Lanyu is estimated to be 150-230 individuals (Konig et al. 1999), while other national population sizes have been estimated at c.100-100,000 breeding pairs in Taiwan and c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs in Japan (Brazil 2009).

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in slow decline owing to on-going but limited habitat loss and degradation.

Distribution and population

Otus elegans is found on the Nansei Shoto islands, Minami-daito-jima island, Okino island (Takagi et al. 2015), southern Japan, on Lanyu Island, off south-east Taiwan (China), and on the Batanes and Babuyan islands off northern Luzon in the Philippines (BirdLife International 2001). It is common wherever suitable habitat remains on the Nansei Shoto, and is presumed to have quite a large population there. The population that persisted on Kita-daito is apparently extinct but 245 territorial males were estimated on adjacent Minami-daito during the 2005 breeding season (Takagi et al. 2007). It has a population estimated at c.1,000 birds on Lanyu Island, and it has been described as fairly common on the Batanes and Babuyan islands. However, its range must have been much reduced and fragmented in the Philippines by deforestation, although its population it thought to be stable on Lanyu Island and its prospects for survival there are good so long as suitable habitat is protected. It is presumably also relatively secure on the Nansei Shoto, but its extirpation from Kita-daito highlights it vulnerability to extensive forest clearance (the island is almost entirely under cultivation now). Recent records of the species nesting on Okino island expand its known range northwards, with an estimated 23 territorial males inhabiting the island (Takagi et al. 2015).


It occurs in subtropical evergreen forest, and locally in or near to villages, from sea-level to 550 m or higher. It feeds on a range of arthropods and will take small mammals and small birds. Eggs are laid in March-July.


The species has likely been impacted by forest clearance (leading to its extirpation on Kita-daito [Takagi et al. 2007]), and studies have shown that suburban owls may not live as long as those in forest, suggesting forest is optimal habitat.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. The species has also been the focus of specific study, improving knowledge of its life history and potential threats.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Protect areas of remaining forest in different parts of its range to ensure that all subspecies are represented. Monitor threats to the species.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Wheatley, H., Bird, J., Westrip, J., Taylor, J., North, A.

Mizuta, T.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Otus elegans. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 21/07/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 21/07/2019.