Brown Hawk-Owl (Ninox scutulata japonica) a.k.a. Northern Boobook (Ninox japonica japonica)
- 18 July 2012. Nose, Toyono District, Osaka Prefecture, Japan.
Masahiro Hashimoto took me to the mountains above Osaka to see a family of Brown Hawk Owls which had recently fledged young in a large famous Japanese Gray-bark Elm (Zelkova serrata) called "Noma Keyaki." It is one of the oldest and largest Zelkova and is protected as a National Monument. More information (in Japanese) and photos of the tree.
We saw two adult owls and five branchlings high in the canopy. This species is a summer visitor and breeder to all the main islands, more common in the south. Masahiro Hashimoto's blog describes our trip including photos. Additional photos of the owls and an account of my meeting with Isao Nishiki is described here.
When viewed from the back, this species is supposed to lack white spots, but many of the photos I've found of the japonica form seem to show a few large white spots on the scapulars as seen here. The loose feather stuck to a branch in front of the owl may be from one of the juveniles. The bottom photo shows a juvenile on the far right.
Some authors (e.g. Clements and the IOC) split the race N. s. japonica into a separate species, the "Northern Boobook" (N. japonica) following King (2002). This split was based on differences in vocalizations. However the AOU, BirdLife International, Mikkola 2012 (Owls of the World: A Photographic Guide), China Bird Report, Birds Korea, König & Weick 2008 (Owls of the World) and Brazil 2009 (Birds of East Asia) still consider this bird to be a race of the Brown Hawk-Owl (N. scutulata).
There are two Alaska records, and the species was added to the North American list by the AOU in the 50th supplement to the AOU Check-List. It is very odd that the AOU and Clements differ on the taxonomy and English names because Clements normally follows the AOU for species which have occurred in North America.
Digiscoped with Panasonic DMC-LX5 | Nikon FieldScope III | 30XWA | hand-held (no adapter).
King, BF. 2002. Species limits in the Brown Boobook Ninox scutulata complex. Bulletin B.O.C. 122: 250-257.