A small, short-tailed scops-owl, lacking apparent ear-tufts. Quite uniformly rufescent, paler below, with small dark markings all over. Central belly and undertail coverts paler and unspotted. Weakly defined facial disk, white supercilia, and yellow to orange irides with a black outer ring. Iris more yellow in female. Tarsi feathered for less than half their length. Similar spp. In range, only the rufous morph of the Sri Lankan race of Oriental Scops-owl Otus sunia leggei, which is slightly larger, and has obvious ear-tufts, tarsi feathered to base of toes, and obvious whitish spots on scapulars. Voice Female gives a short, piping, tremulous pU’U’u, rising and falling in pitch. Male gives a lower pitched, shorter, less tremulous version. Vocalisations most common in the hours just after dusk and just before dawn. Otus thilohoffmanni is endemic to the wet zone of Sri Lanka, where it is known only from Kitugala, Sinharaja, Morapitiya-Runakanda, Kanneliya and Eratna-Gilimale, despite investigation of c.75% of suitable habitat. It escaped detection until 1995 due to its unobtrusive and rather ventriloqual call. Less than 100 individuals have now been located in the five known sites, but it is likely that others remain undetected, and it may well occur at additional sites in the wet zone rainforests. It occurs in larger areas of lowland rainforest, at 30-530 m altitude. It appears to be generally rare, but locally common, and pairs occupy large territories. All locations where the bird has been found so far have been disturbed areas with tall, dense secondary growth3. It roosts around 1 m above the ground. For the two hours after dark, it hunts for prey in the undergrowth, later foraging higher; between the undergrowth and subcanopy. The breeding behaviour of this species is not yet known. It has not been found in forest patches smaller than 8.2 km2 in extent, indicating that it is sensitive to habitat loss and fragmentation, which has been severe in Sri Lanka. Habitat loss is still continuing, but at a slower rate since most lowland forest is now gone or under protection. (birdlife.org).
Warakagoda, D.H. & Rasmussen, P.C. (2004) A new species of scops-owl from Sri Lanka Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club Vol. 124 pp. 85-105