Fun Stilt-owl Facts For Kids

Ritwik Bhuyan
Jan 09, 2023 By Ritwik Bhuyan
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Fact-checked by Sakshi Raturi
Stilt-owl facts are interesting

Stilt-owl is the other name given to birds of the genus Grallistrix. These birds from Hawaii are now extinct.

There were four species of birds found in the Hawaiian Islands. Part of the family Strigidae, the fours species of these Hawaiian stilt-owls are Kaua‘i stilt-owl, Maui stilt-owl, Moloka‘i stilt-owl, and O‘ahu stilt-owl. The bird species Moloka‘i stilt-owl was the largest of all the four species from Hawaii.

The name Grallistrix was given to the genus as it roughly translates to get the meaning of owls on stilts. This name is due to the long legs that the birds possessed.

The long legs are probably due to the terrestrial nature of the bird species. These birds evolved with long legs and to live on the ground due to the absence of any other mammalian species on the Hawaiian Islands.

Although these birds had shorter wings, they were capable of flying. However, they preferred stalking and ambushing smaller birds sleeping on foot and raiding other colonies of many seabirds at night.

They used their legs more than their wings. The Hawaiian owl species fed on smaller birds like the Hawaiian honeycreepers.

It was a peaceful life for this bird until humans started settling on the Hawaiian Islands in the late 1st millennium AD. The introduction of pigs and Polynesian rats in the range was deemed to be a factor for the stilt-owl extinct stature.

Human activities like agriculture and construction throughout the range could have also destroyed the species' natural habitat. These Hawaiian owls became extinct right after and scientists only got to examine the fossil bones of the species.

For more relatable content, check out these interesting burrowing owl facts and saker falcon facts. 

Stilt-owl Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a stilt-owl?

Stilt-owl birds were an extinct genus (Grallistrix) of true owls. True owls are one among two genetically accepted families of owls. The other one apart from true owls are the barn owls, mostly seen all over the world.

What class of animal does a stilt-owl belong to?

Hawaiian stilt-owl or Grallistrix falls under the class of Aves in the kingdom of Animalia. The genus containing this bird species is part of the family Strigidae.

How many stilt-owls are there in the world?

There are no more of this Hawaiian stilt-owl left in the world. All birds were extinct a long back due to predation by other animals and habitat destruction. The birds are gone for hundreds of years and we only know about them through fossils.

Where does a stilt-owl live?

The birds of the genus Grallistrix were native to the islands of Hawaii. As the name of the species suggests, they were probably found in the Hawaiian islands of Kaua‘i, Maui, Moloka‘i, and O‘ahu.

What is a stilt-owl's habitat?

There is not much information on the habitat of these birds. They were native to the islands of Hawaii and were found in terrestrial regions. However, as they had wings to fly, they probably lived in other areas too.

These owls were known to hunt the honeycreepers in dense forests.

Generally, owls are found in all kinds of habitats like temperate, tropical, savanna regions.

Who do stilt-owls live with?

There is no information on the company these birds kept.

Owls usually live a solitary life and are found alone. They only sometimes flock with the same species.

How long does a stilt-owl live?

There is no information on the lifespan of the stilt-owl.

Owls usually live for an age of up to 12-20 years. The mortality rate is higher in younger birds, however, the longevity increases with time.

How do they reproduce?

The breeding pattern is not known in these extinct birds.

Owls in general breed only when they have plenty of food to feed themselves and the young. Males chase the female birds and show flying techniques to attract females. This marks the start of the mating season. Females lay five to six eggs per breeding season.

Most species of owls take control of the nests of other birds and incubate the eggs there for a month. Baby owls are nurtured by the mother for 25 days. After that, the young ones become independent.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of this owl is Extinct.

Due to predation by different animals and also habitat loss after humans settled on the islands is deemed the main cause for the extinction of the species.

Stilt-owl Fun Facts

What do stilt-owls look like?

There are not many details on the physical features of these birds as scientists only could study the fossils of the birds. However, as per sketches, these owls were probably light brown to gray in color. They had long legs which are a distinct feature not seen in present owls.

Owls have big and unique eyes, sharp and round beaks, and full feathered bodies. The eyes make up 1-5% of the body size. They have sharp claws called talons on their feet.

Tawny Owl perched on a tree

*Please note that the main image and this image is of a Tawny owl which belongs to the Strigidae family, not a stilt-owl. If you have an image of a stilt-owl, please let us know at

How cute are they?

Owls are considered cute. But the eyes make them creepy sometimes.

How do they communicate?

There is no information on the mode of communication of the extinct genus.

Owls make different sounds to communicate and are very expressive. They are nocturnal creatures and hoot a lot during that time.

How big is a stilt-owl?

The dimensions of the stilt-owl size are not known.

However, the largest among in the genus called the Molokaʻi stilt-owl (Grallistrix geleches) was around 23.6 in (60 cm) tall.

How fast can a stilt-owl fly?

The speed is not known.

How much does a stilt-owl weigh?

The weight is not known.

What are the male and female names of the species?

Males and females were probably called by the common name - stilt-owl.

What would you call a baby stilt-owl?

Baby stilt-owl is called young or juvenile.

What do they eat?

Stilt-owls were known to feed primarily on Hawaiian honeycreepers in the dense forests. They used to find smaller terrestrial birds in the islands. They also attack seabird colonies and feed on sleeping birds.

Are they dangerous?

They were probably not dangerous.

Would they make a good pet?

These are extinct birds and not found anywhere currently.

Did you know...

The popular Pokémon Decidueye of the very popular Pokémon animated show is based on the stilt-owls.

They went extinct hundreds of years ago.

When did stilt owls go extinct?

The population probably started decreasing with the introduction of pigs, Polynesian rats, and humans as a whole in the habitat of the Hawaiian islands. The attacks by the animals and habitat destruction for the purpose of agriculture depleted the population of the species quite a bit.

Scientists and researchers never got a chance to examine the Grallistrix in all its glory. All research on the birds is based on the subfossil bones found on the islands.

How are they different from regular owls?

The long legs of these Hawaiian owls are the unique feature not present in present-day owls.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these hummingbird facts and dodo facts for kids.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable stilt owl coloring pages.

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Written by Ritwik Bhuyan

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English

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Ritwik BhuyanBachelor of Arts specializing in English

A skilled content writer, Ritwik holds a Bachelor's degree in English from Delhi University. He has refined his writing abilities through his past experience at PenVelope and his current role at Kidadl. In addition to his proficiency in writing, Ritwik has pursued his passion for flying by achieving CPL training and becoming a licensed commercial pilot. This diverse skill set highlights his commitment to exploring multiple fields. Ritwik's experience in the aviation industry has provided him with a unique perspective and attention to detail, which he brings to his writing.

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Fact-checked by Sakshi Raturi

Postgraduate Diploma in Management

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Sakshi RaturiPostgraduate Diploma in Management

Sakshi has experience in marketing strategy, social media planning, and recruiting industry experts for capstone projects, she has displayed a commitment to enhancing their skills and knowledge. She has won multiple awards, including a Certificate of Appreciation for Creative Writing and a Certificate of Merit for Immaculate Turut, and is always seeking new opportunities to grow and develop.

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