Skip to content

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 Global Assessment

Habitats Wetland Thickets, Perennial Stream
Presence In Israel Resident
Breeding In Israel Bred in the past
Migration Types Resident
Zoographical Zones Mediterranean
Landscape Types Wetlands, Riparian, Marsh, Wetland Thickets
Vegetation Types Forest, Mediterranean Maquis, Marsh and Riparian
Nest Locations Cliffs, Tree
Diet Types Fish
Foraging Grounds Water
Body Sizes Large (over 1000g)
Threat Factors Wetland Drainage & Pollution, Hunting and trapping

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 from the past and present, and the changes in occupancy and breeding density during the comparison period. For further reading

Relative Abundance 2010-2020

Breeding density values in the current decade as determined from experts' opinion and observations from databases.

Relative Abundance 2010-2020 by density
Data Missing Sporadic Limited Sites Low Density High Density
8 12 12 21 19

Relative Abundance 1980-1990

Density values based primarily on the book The Birds of Israel (Shirihai 1996).

Relative Abundance 1980-1990 by density
Data Missing Sporadic Limited Sites Low Density High Density
5 14 14 17 22

Occupancy 1990-2020

The map shows differences in the species breeding distribution between the 1980's breeding map and the current weighted breeding evaluation. Negative value - species previously bred in the grid and is not presently breeding; positive value - species has not previously bred in the grid and is currently breeding.

Occupancy 1990-2020
Data Missing No Change Occupancy Increase Occupancy Decrease
6 35 1 9

Change in Relative Abundance 1990-2020

The map shows the changes in the relative abundance of a species in each of the distribution grids between the breeding map of the 1980s and the weighted current breeding evaluation. Negative values - decline in abundance; positive values - increase in abundance; zero - no change in abundance.

Change in Relative Abundance 1990-2020
80 to 100 50 20 to 30 No Change 30- to 20- 50- 100- to 80- Data Missing
0 4 2 22 12 14 11 16

Red number
IUCN category
Threat Definition according to the red book
() districts
% of protected sites

Other Species

Bubo bubo
Bubo ascalaphus
Strix aluco
Strix butleri