The genus Tyto includes all barn-owls (family Tytonidae) except for the bay-owls (subfamily Phodilinae, genus Phodilus) – that is, the true barn-owls, the grass-owls and the masked-owls collectively making up the subfamily Tytoninae. They are darker on the back than the front, usually an orange-brown colour, the front being a paler version of the back or mottled, although there is considerable variation even amongst species. Tyto owls have a divided, heart-shaped facial disc, and lack the ear-like tufts of feathers found in many other owls. Tyto owls tend to be larger than Bay-owls.
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Tyto nigrobrunnea is endemic to the Sula Islands, Maluku, Indonesia, where it is known by just one specimen (collected in 1938) and one recent sight record (during a seven-week survey in 1991), both from the largest island in the group, Taliabu. There is no information on its population size, but the paucity of records (even taking into account its inconspicuous nature and the fact that it could easily be overlooked) indicate that it is likely to be very scarce