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Ketupa zeylonensis

warning Regionally Extinct

The Brown Fish-owl is classified as Regionally Extinct (RE). It became extinct in the 1970s and since then no individuals have been observed. In the previous edition of the Red Book (2002), it was classified as Regionally Extinct (RE).
RE Current Regional Assessment | RE Previous Regional Assessment | LC World Assessment

Habitats Wetland Thickets, Perennial Stream
Presence In Israel Resident
Nesting In Israel Past Breeder
Migration Types Resident
Zoography Zones Mediterranean
Landscape Formations Swamps, Wetland Thickets, Riparian, Wetlands
Vegetation Formations Forest, Mediterranean Maquis, Wetland Thickets
Nest Locations Tree, Cliffs
Diet Types Fish
Foraging Grounds Water
Body Sizes Large (over 1000g)
Threat Factors Direct Persecution, Wetland Drainage & Pollution

The Brown Fish-owl is a large owl resembling an eagle owl in its broad build and brown plumage. It inhabits wetland habitats and feeds mainly on fish it hunts in shallow swoops towards the water.

Until the early 20th century, the Brown Fish-owl was resident in the Galilee, the Golan Heights, the northern Jordan Valley and the Northern Valleys. The population was estimated at several tens of individuals at minimum. There is no data regarding its breeding biology in Israel, but the population was believed to be resident and breeding. The last observations were from Bet Zera and Hamat Gader in 1974-1975 (Paz 1986, Shirihai 1996).

The Brown Fish-owl has a broad distribution in Southeast Asia, but the western subspecies (K. z. semenowi) has a relictual fragmented distribution and in our region, it is only known from a number of sites in southern Turkey.

In the late 19th century and in the early 20th century the Brown Fish-owl was harmed by collection of numerous specimens for scientific collections. Most of the damage, however, resulted from wetland habitat modification and destruction in northern Israel, such as the drainage of the Hula Marshes, pumping of streams in the Galilee and the Golan Heights and diversion of springs to reservoirs.

The probability of the Brown Fish-owl returning to breed in this area naturally is very low, because the breeding population that occupied the area was at the western edge of its global range. Adjacent populations, e.g. Lebanon and Jordan, have also apparently become extinct (BirdLife 2017). The species is not recommended for reintroduction to nature in Israel at this stage, due to the small number of suitable sites for nesting and the current degraded state of the water sources in the Galilee and Golan streams.

  • פז, ע. 1986. עופות. מתוך אלון, ע. (עורך), החי והצומח של ארץ ישראל. כרך 6. הוצאת משרד הביטחון, ישראל.

Distribution maps

The maps presented here provide visual information on the distribution of species in Israel in the past and present, and the changes in occupancy and nesting density during the comparison period. For further reading

Relative Abundance 2010-2020

Breeding density values as calculated from observation records and expert opinions.

Relative Abundance 1980-1990

Breeding density values are based mainly on the book Birds of Israel (Shirihai 1996).

Occupancy difference 1990-2020

A map that expresses differences in the breeding distribution between the evaluation periods (1980-1990 versus 2010-2020). Negative value - species previously present but is currently absent, positive value - species has not been recorded previously and is currently present, zero - no change in occupancy.

Relative abundance difference 1990-2020

A map that reflects the changes in the relative abundance of the species between the evaluation periods (1980-1990 versus 2010-2020). Negative values - decline in abundance, positive values - increase in abundance, zero - no change in abundance.

Red number

IUCN category

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% of protected sites

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