Bangkok Boobooks

Boobooks are true owls that belong to the genus of Ninox. Commonly referred to as Hawk-owls, they lack any distinct facial disc or ear-tufts. In Thailand you can encounter wintering Northern Boobooks and Brown Boobooks, which are resident throughout Thai forests.

It’s been just over 2 years since I photographed a Boobook. Last time was December in 2019 when there was a Northern Boobook staying at the bamboo area in Sirikit Park. In the Bangkok area, they are more likely to be seen than the resident Brown Boobooks.

Northern Boobook at Sirikit Park. Amazing eyebrows. 6th December 2019.

Fast forward to now, in the past few days, Brown Boobook has been reported at Chulalongkorn University’s inner-city campus. Without a second-thought I was off to see this Brown Boobook, which is very rare to find in Bangkok.

You might be wondering how you can tell these two Boobooks apart. The main visual indication is the chest pattern and belly pattern. Brown Boobook has more heart shape spots lower down, whereas Northern Boobook tends to have thinner teardrop streaks throughout.

Finally found the Brown Boobook. 15th February 2022.

When I first arrived I was checking all the trees with similar leaves from the image of the bird, but finding a roosting owl, even in a smallish area, can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Luckily, it wasn’t long before I found someone else who came to see the owl and I learned where it was. We did some birding in the area and saw a good number of species in this green-area nestled in Bangkok’s city centre.

Scaly-breasted Munia at CU centenary park. 15th February 2022.

Being close to my home, I decided to come back the next day as my Boobook photos from the previous day weren’t so good. The weather was similar, overcast with a storm brewing. Despite this, I got a better angle on the Brown Boobook avoiding backlight.

Better Brown Boobook image from the second visit. 16th February 2022.

I stuck around to film some video, also. It was great to observe it over an hour or so. Occasionally it shifted around, stretching out all its wings before settling back into a restful state. It wasn’t quiet today as there were many noisy gardeners around.

Stretching out its wings. 16th February 2022.
Fluffy Brown Boobook. 16th February 2022.

It was still challenging to photograph, as the when it did a big stretch, it was because a large gust of wind was blowing through the trees. It affects everything, the focus, the light, so the photos lacked clarity with the bumped ISO.

The video I filmed today.

As you can see from the video, it did begin to rain during my time there. A few heavy drops fell on its head startling it slightly. I will continue to monitor the bird and see how long it sticks around!

A short clip from 18th February 2022 showing it stretching and preening.

All images and video © 2019 – 2022 hamsambly


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