Boobook Owl in Bakelalan Sarawak

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Boobook Owl in Bakelalan Sarawak

On a recent birdwatching trip to Borneo’s Highlands, I managed to photograph a Brown Boobook Owl in Bakelalan Sarawak, which is known to be a resident nocturnal bird here.

This was also my first time spotting the Brown Boobook, which is considered a ‘Lifer‘ for me. I have seen a few owls around Sabah and Sarawak, but not this particular species.

Boobook Owl in Bakelalan Sarawak

The Brown Boobook or Ninox scutulata is a known resident in Bakelalan and is also spotted around Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo’s island.

Its big yellow eyes are quite prominent, and you see it highly bright when the light is on. In some photos, you see red in the eye from the white light shining on the Boobook.

They are not that easy to spot, but not that hard either. One needs to have a sharp eye, and of course, luck is the main factor when looking for these beautiful nocturnal birds.

Bakelalan Brown Boobook
Close-up of the Brown Boobook in Bakelalan. The red eye is part of the white flashlight.

My sighting was considered a lucky one, as I was out looking for the endemic Dulit Frogmouth, which is known to be spotted around Bakelalan in Sarawak.

After three nights of looking for the Dulit Frogmouth, the final night was the closest I have been to hearing the call of this highly sought-after bird. Our specialist guide had called the Frogmouth, and it responded with a call-back, only to be hidden high up in the canopy of the rainforest.

Attempts to lure it to a lower and more open branch were unsuccessful as it played games with us. We must have waited three hours for this prized bird to show itself, which it never did.

Sarawak Boobook Owl
A cropped photo of the Brown Boobook in Bakelalan.

In the end, we moved to another spot in Bakelalan to look for the Dulit Frogmouth but attempts to call it were unsuccessful. However, the bird guide did mention that, at times, they would be lurking somewhere without making a sound.

And it was then, when we were scanning the forest with our torches, that one of us caught an eye reflection, and we were pretty much excited about this.

It was quite far, perhaps about a hundred meters in, and high up in the open. Looking through my 600mm lens after the soft light was focused on the subject, I saw it was a Brown Boobook.

Due to the distance, the light was not powerful enough, but most of us got the shot after many attempts. As you can see in the photos here, they are quite decent, and I am happy with the Boobook sighting in Bakelalan, Sarawak.

Malaysia Boobook Owl
A 600mm shot of the Brown Boobook in Sarawak.

Brown Boobook Names

These beautiful owls also go by other names, such as Brown Hawk-Owl or Oriental Hawk-Owl and are spotted in various regions. The Brown Boobook has been spotted in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka.

You can get more detailed information about the Brown Boobook if you wish to understand this nocturnal bird, its habitats, breeding and so on.

Bakelalan Brown Boobook Owl
The actual 600mm framing of the Brown Boobook.


Well, as a fact-finding trip, our bird watching exploration team spent a good three days and nights in Bakelalan, Sarawak. It was not a bird watching trip, as most would think.

Our mission was to study the accessibility, logistics, accommodations, birdwatching locations, food choices, and trails around Bakelalan, promoting birdwatching in Sarawak.

While Bakelalan remains one of the up-and-coming birding destinations in Sarawak, more bird watchers have started to head here since the news of spotting the endemic Dulit Frogmouth in Bakelalan.

Bird Watching Asia is a private website and blog dedicated to birding in Sarawak and Malaysia and is operated independently. I am open to working with anyone who is in this fascinating industry.

About Bird Watching Asia

Bird Watching Asia is a self-funded project to promote bird watching in Malaysia and around Asia.

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