Scientists Discover Mysterious New Owl Species With Unusual Hoot

by Caitlin Berard
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(Photo by Donal Husni/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

With scientists around the world dedicating their lives to learning about the world around us, with hundreds of years of research behind them, you would think there’s nothing left to discover about the Earth’s 197-million-square-mile surface. The fact is, however, that what we think we know about our little blue planet is an ever-evolving tale. New discoveries are made all the time, with new species emerging on a daily basis. Among the species most recently discovered (in relative terms) is a strange new owl. Researchers dubbed the bird the Principe-Scops Owl, scientific name Otus bikegila.

Scops-owls are well-documented throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa. The newest addition to the family, the Principe Scops-Owl, was found on Principe, an island off the coast of Africa. Scientists first discovered the owl in 2016, but a recent study was conducted to learn more about the unusual bird.

“The discovery of a new bird species is always an occasion to celebrate,” study author Martim Melo told The Mirror. “[It’s] an opportunity to reach out to the general public on the subject of biodiversity. In this age of human-driven extinction, a major global effort should be undertaken to document what may soon not be anymore.”

Scientists Explain What Makes New Owl Species Unusual

According to the researchers behind the study, “bikeglia” was chosen as part of the new owl’s name in homage to Ceciliano do Bom Jesus, nicknamed Bikeglia. The former Principe Island parrot harvester is now a natural park ranger dedicated to learning more about its wildlife.

“The discovery of the Principe Scops-Owl was only possible thanks to the local knowledge shared by Bikegila,” researchers explained. “And by his unflinching efforts to solve this long-time mystery. As such, the name is also meant as an acknowledgment to all locally-based field assistants crucial in advancing the knowledge on the biodiversity of the world.”

So, what makes the new owl species so unusual? Unlike its relatives, the Principe Scops-Owl doesn’t hoot. Instead, it produces a short “tuu” at around one note per second shortly after nightfall. The owl’s odd call is actually one of the main factors that led to its discovery.

Researchers’ knowledge about the new owl species is still limited. What they do know, however, is that their habitat is incredibly small. Scientists estimate between 1,000 and 1,500 live within an area about four times the size of Central Park. This makes the new owl a critically endangered species in the eyes of researchers.

“The discovery of a new species – that is immediately evaluated as highly threatened – illustrates well the current biodiversity predicament,” researchers explained. “On a positive note, the area of occurrence of the Principe Scops-Owl is fully included within the Príncipe Obô Natural Park. [This] will hopefully help secure its protection.”

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