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New Owl Species Discovered on West Africa's Príncipe Island — Otus bikegila

Tom Kellie

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@Tom Kellie

Very interesting, thanks for posting this, I visited Principe in 2008 but didn’t get the chance to venture into Obo National Park in the day time, never mind at night, it doesn’t surprise me at all that the island has its own Scops Owl, if anything I’m surprised it has taken this long for ornithologists to track it down and make its existence official, as it was long suspected that the island has an owl. In the Birds of Africa South of the Sahara it says under São Tomé Scops Owl "reports of owls on Principe are unconfirmed and maybe a different species". This now puts the number of extant African species of Scops Owls up to 15, or 16 if you include the European that is a migrant to Africa, 12 of these are island species, in the past there were even more, 3 Indian Ocean species from Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues are extinct and 2 Atlantic species the Madeiran Scops Owl and the São Miguel Scops Owl from the Azores are also extinct. There are actually 56 extant Scops Owl species most of them found on different Asian Islands, you can almost guarantee that any tropical island that isn't much too remote will have a species of Scops Owl. I think the Seychelles Scops might possibly be the most remote. 


The Nat Geo article supposedly has a recording of the owl, but I couldn’t make it work, when I clicked the link to the original science paper, I saw under vocalisations a couple of code numbers that indicated that there must be recordings on Xeno-Canto, but when I went to the website and searched for Principe Scops Owl nothing came up. Eventually reading through the paper again, I found a link to Xeno-Canto which did then take me to the recordings, the recordings are from 2017-19, obviously when they were uploaded, they hadn’t don’t the work to confirm the owl is a new species, so they are listed as Sao Tome Scops Owl (Otus hartlaubi Otus bikegila), that explains why I didn’t find them when I looked up Principe Scops Owl, I assume that at some point they will relabel them.


A new species of scops-owl (Aves, Strigiformes, Strigidae, Otus) from Príncipe Island (Gulf of Guinea, Africa) and novel insights into the systematic affinities within Otus


To hear the calls Xeno-Canto  


I wasn’t on a birding tour when I visited STP back in 08, but I do know having just looked at a Bird Quest tour report that if you do go on a birding tour there, you would have an excellent chance of seeing this owl, in their 2018 tour report they say




The highlight of this short trip was without a doubt the cracking observation of the only recently discovered and as yet undescribed ‘Principe’ Scops Owl. To get to grips with

this beauty we had to camp for one night in the primary rainforest in the south of Principe.





I was also interested to read on their website that they have now worked out how to try and see all of the endemic birds on both islands without needing to camp at all on either island. I missed my chance to see the more common endemics on São Tomé, as I mentioned in my old trip report a change in flight schedules, cut short my time on the island, but I did see most of the common endemics on Principe.


Gabon and São Tomé & Principe 10th Feb to the 2nd March 2008

Edited by inyathi
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