Of all the owls in Thailand, this one has to be one of the freakiest.
The Bay Owl is a strange creature, with a large, pale face and beady, almost alien-looking eyes. It is sometimes seen perched on vertical vines or branches in thickets in the forest, an act which underlines its dexterous prowess.
With the exception of the Barn Owl and Barred Eagle Owl, the Bay Owl has a call which sends chills through the spines of most Thai people within earshot of it. With superstition abounding in folklore and legends of terrible ghosts passed down from generation to generation, Thai people are naturally rather squeamish when it comes to eerie sounds in the night.
Saying that the sound is only that of an owl doesn’t so much to restore confidence however, as many Thai people see the owl as being a messenger of death or bad luck. This could be linked to the fact that Barn Owls are often found roosting in large trees in temples throughout Thailand. (There is a family of birds present at Wat Naka Temple in Phuket Town.) The fact that these strange, white, mystical creatures inhabit a place where bodies are brought to be cremated certainly gives weight to the superstition and makes owls among the most feared, yet respected birds in Thai culture.
This owl is present in many forests throughout the south, but like most night birds, is not always easy to tape in. This photo was taken by Mr. Peter Ericsson at Kaeng Krachan National Park a few weeks back.
The owl is also know to exist in Khao Prataow Forest Reserve in central Phuket, and was recently seen around the campsite in Sri Phang Nga National Park by some rangers a few weeks ago.