About Sri Lanka Chestnut-Backed Owlet

The chestnut-backed owlet (Glaucidium castanotum) (also spelled Glaucidium castanonotum) is a species of owl found only in Sri Lanka. This species is a member of the Strigidae family of owls, which includes the majority of the smaller owl species. This species was previously thought to be a subspecies of the jungle owlet.
The chestnut-backed owlet is a small, stocky bird that measures 19 cm (7.5 in) in length. It is similar in shape, size, and appearance to the jungle owlet, but the upperparts, scapulars, and wing coverts are chestnut brown with darker barring. White underparts with blackish shaft-streaks. The facial disc is mostly brown, with yellow eyes. A white neckband is present. There is no sexual dimorphism in the appearance of the sexes.

Where Are They Live?

Sri Lanka Chestnut-Backed Owlet - Habitat Map

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Piciformes
Family: Megalaimidae
Genus: Psilopogon
Species: P. Rubricapillus
Binomial Name: Psilopogon Rubricapillus

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Distribution and Habitat

The chestnut-backed owlet is a common resident bird in Sri Lanka’s wet zone forests and can be seen at places like Kitulgala and Sinharaja. Legge’s historical reports of its distribution include many parts of Sri Lanka’s southern half, particularly the hills and wet-zone low country extending to the outskirts of Colombo. Its range has recently shrunk significantly, and it can now be found sparingly in the remaining forests of the wet zone and the adjacent hills at altitudes of up to 6500 ft above sea level.


This species is diurnal and is commonly seen during the day, particularly in the evening. The flight has a lot of undulations. Small birds that mob it while it is perched in a tree can often locate it. It prefers the tops of tall trees, usually on steep hillsides, and is thus frequently overlooked. It primarily feeds on insects like beetles, but it also captures mice, small lizards, and small birds, especially when the young are being fed. The call is a slow kraw-kraw that travels a long distance. It builds a nest in a hole in a tree and lays two eggs.

In Culture

In Sri Lanka, this bird is referred to as “Pitathabala Vana-Bassa” in Sinhala, and it is a small, flightless bird.

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