New Owl Species and other breaking news

Rinjani Scops Owl (Otus jolandae) and other species new to science

by José Luis Copete

In the short period between 2012 and 2013, several new  species of owl have been described. A group of these, are splits of the Philippine Hawk Owl (Ninox philippensis), a species consisting of formerly several subspecies, some of which inhabited isolated in islands of that archipelago, now elevated to specific rank in a paper published in 2012 by Pamela Rasmussen and co-authors in Forktail (Rasmussen et al 2012, Vocal divergence and new species in the Philippine Hawk Owl Ninox philippensis complex. Forktail 28: 1-20). Two of the cases presented were ‘hidden’ taxa, not well-known. One is the Cebu Hawk Owl (Ninox rumseyi), from Cebu, which was rediscovered in 1998 after a long period of 110 years without known records. The other is the Camiguin Hawk Owl (Ninox leventisi), present in Camiguin South, a small island near north Mindanao. That new species has been named honouring Tasso Leventis, one of the members of BirdLife International Council, a photographer of birds and mammals from many parts of the world, but especially from Nigeria, where he has sponsored the creation of a bird research station, where many birds are ringed every year, especially by Swedish ringers.

Lombok Scops Owl_R Hutchinson_Gunung Rinjani_June 2011 (5) LOW RES…………..Rinjani Scops Owl (Otus jolandae) by Rob Hutchinson/BirdTour Asia.

But besides these, already in 2013  two new species have just been described  One, a Scops Owl that lives in the Indonesian island of Lombok (located between Bali and Sumbabwa), known from a few years ago, but which was still formally undescribed. Its formal description has just been published (Sangster et al 2013), as Rinjani Scops Owl (Otus jolandae). The original paper can be downloaded here:

A New Owl Species of the Genus Otus

So, with the new Scops Owl from Lombok, there are already several owls discovered during the last decade: Pernambuco Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium mooreorum) in 2002 (da Silva et al 2002 Ararajuba 10(2): 123-130), a species for which there are not yet photographs in the field (Luiz Cardoso da Silva pers com), which has been recorded in only two localities, being on the brink of extinction; Little Sumba Hawk Owl (Ninox sumbaensis) in 2002 (Olsen et al 2002 Emu 102: 223-231), present in Sumba, in the Lesser Sundas, known from the 80’s but confirmed by DNA time latter; Serendib Scops Owl (Otus thilohoffmanni) in 2004 (Warakagoda & Rasmussen 2004 Bull BOC 124(2): 85-105) from SW Sri Lanka; and finally Togian Hawk Owl (Ninox burhani) in 2004 (Indrawan and Somadikarta 2004 Bull BOC 124(3): 160-171), present in the Togian Islands, off Sulawesi.

Lombok Scops Owl_R Hutchinson_Gunung Rinjani_June 2011 LOW RES…………..Rinjani Scops Owl (Otus jolandae) by Rob Hutchinson/BirdTour Asia.

Lately, other new species have also been described for other groups of birds, including confirmation as  new species of Pincoya Storm-petrel (Oceanites pincoyae), as have just been named the Storm-petrels colloquially known as ‘Puerto Montt Storm-petrels’ which were discussed already for a few years ago, after observations and photos obtained in pelagics near Puerto Montt (Chile). The formal description was published in the first issue of 2013 in Auk, advanced some time ago in the online version at JSTOR (Harrison et al 2013) available at

A New Storm-Petrel Species from Chile

All these cases will be included in a review of the new species discovered during last years for the forthcoming volume of HBW, the last of the series. It will also include unpublished formal descriptions of some new species from the Neotropics, so the list of exciting novelties to be described –and then, of major interest for global listers- will increase significantly in a matter of months.

Lombok Scops Owl_R Hutchinson_Gunung Rinjani_June 2011 (4) LOW RES…………..Rinjani Scops Owl (Otus jolandae) by Rob Hutchinson/BirdTour Asia.

With grateful thanks to Rob Hutchinson/BirdTour Asia.

About Martin Garner

I am a Free Spirit
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2 Responses to New Owl Species and other breaking news

  1. Sam Jones says:

    What appears to be a new sp. of Pygmy Tyrant (Myiornis sp.) from NE Brazil here as well-
    There is also a highly likely new Rallina crake in the Nicobar Islands, as reported in BirdingASIA (June 2012).
    Plenty more discoveries to be made out there…

  2. Robert Lockett says:

    And of course there’s the “Santa Marta” Screech-Owl, “Alto Pisones” Tapaculo (both from Colombia) and “San Isidro” Owl (Ecuador) awaiting formal descriptions and/or more investigation.

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