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Shelley's Eagle Owl


Pictus Safaris
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Pictus Safaris

We were delighted to assist in arranging a trip earlier this year to Tai NP (in addition to the trips covered in this TR) in Cote d'Ivoire. Whilst this was primarily to be a herping trip, there was plenty of scope for birding and mammal-watching....and what cracking sightings they had. A lengthy encounter with a pygmy hippo was the unquestionable mammal highlight, but the birding highlight must have been excellent views of Shelley's Eagle Owl (Bubo shelleyi).

 

For those not familiar with this species, it has become a bit of a mythical beast amongst birders, and some considered that the species may be extinct until a sighting last year in Ghana confirmed that they remained extant in primary rainforest in West Africa. Very little is known about their habits and exact range, although it is hypothesised that they are highly-specialised and depend on relatively untouched forest with plenty of 'ridgetop' habitat. We had therefore long considered that Tai NP could be a good place to see this species, although local information indicated that most people knew the owl only from legends about the birds swooping down to take unsuspecting children from the forest floor. We had a putative sighting of a Shelley's on our first night in the park (detailed in the TR) earlier this year, but a lack of clarity on exact pelage and facial markings stopped us short of confirming an ID. Now that we have such excellent photographic records, we're able to confirm this sight record (although sight records for such elusive species are much less important than photographic ones, of course). Those with subscriptions to the relevant bulletins and reports should expect to see this sighting published in the coming months - Tai is certainly gaining traction amongst birders after going through an understandable lull in popularity during years of unrest. White-breasted guineafowl, maned owl, rufous-fishing owl, yellow-headed picathartes, chocolate-backed kingfisher, white-crested tiger-heron, African finfoot and Shelley's eagle owl certainly makes for good reading.

 

Our thanks to Benjamin Schweinhart and his guide Hino Kevin Tanguy for allowing us to share these photos. To find out more about Ben and the sightings he enjoyed, his links are www.tremarctos.com and www.flickr.com/photos/tremarctos. For those interested, we will be sharing further info in due course about the mammal sightings Ben enjoyed, as they are similarly impressive.

 

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