The Forest Owlet (Heteroglaux blewitti) is an owl which breeds in central India. This species belongs to the typical owls family, Strigidae.
The Forest Owlet is small (23 cm) and stocky. It is a typical owlet with a rather unspotted crown and heavily banded wings and tail. It appears to be strongly diurnal and fairly easy to detect, frequently perching on prominent bare branches. Lizards and mammals appear to be important prey. Unlike the Spotted Owlet (Athene brama), the Forest Owlet has the fewer and fainter spots on the crown and back. The upperparts are dark grey-brown. The breast is almost solid brown and the sides are barred with the central lower breast is somtimes unmarked (Especially in males). The primaries are darker and distinct. The wings and tail are banded with white trailing edges. A dark carpal patch on the underwing visible in flight. The facial disc is pale and the eyes are yellow.
The species epithet is a patronym after F. R. Blewitt, the collector of the first specimen. It was obtained in December 1872 at Busnah-Phooljan near Basna on the Phuljar highway in eastern Madhya Pradesh and the specimen was sent to Allan Octavian Hume who described it in 1873.
Until its rediscovery in 1997, this owl was known from only seven specimens collected in the nineteenth century, in northern Maharashtra, and south-east Madhya Pradesh/western Orissa. In November 1997 a group of American ornithologists, including Pamela C. Rasmussen, rediscovered the species in foothills of the Satpura Range, north-east of Bombay. In 2000 a survey of 14 forest areas across its former range located 25 birds (using call playback) at four sites in northern Maharashtra and south-western Madhya Pradesh, including three pairs at Taloda Forest Range and seven pairs at Toranmal Forest Range. No birds were found in a brief survey of its former eastern range in Orissa. More recently survey efforts in the Satpura Range added another five sites. The species has been reported from the Chatwa and Padwa forests near Andhra Pradesh by K. S. R. Krishna Raju.
These owls typically hunt from perches where they sit still and wait for prey. When perched they flick their tails from side to side rapidly and more excitedly when prey is being chased. It was observed in one study that nearly 60% of prey were lizards, 15% rodents, 2% birds and the remaining invertebrates and frogs. When nesting the male hunted and fed the female at nest and the young were fed by the female. The young fledge after 30-32 days.
On cold winter mornings they bask on the tops of tall trees.
Infanticide by males attempting to take over paired females has been observed.
The Forest Owlet remains critically endangered, and the current population has been estimated at less than 250. It is thought that this owl has always been rare. The original specimens were collected in dense jungle, and the recent sightings in more open forest may be living in suboptimal habitat. Plains-level forest in its range has been totally cleared, and there is pressure on the remaining forest resources.