Two new owl species
Since 1998, already seven new species of small owl have been described, and in 2004 two more were added to the list. Deepal Warakagoda and Pamela Rasmussen described a new scops owl from south-western Sri Lanka, Serendib Scops Owl Otus thilohoffmanni (Warakagoda, D H & Rasmussen, P C 2004. A new species of scops-owl from Sri Lanka. Bull Br Ornithol Club 124: 85-105). Already in February 1995, DHW heard and tape-recorded an unfamiliar owl-like vocalization in Kitulgala Proposed Reserve in Sri Lanka. In the following years, the mysterious call was heard on various occasions but it was not until 23 January 2001 before DHW managed to see a bird actually giving the call, which appeared to be a small rufous owl. In February 2001, an individual was located which could be well photographed. The images confirmed that this owl was strikingly different from any other owl species from Sri Lanka. On 4 August 2001, a male was trapped, ringed, measured, photographed and released; this individual was relocated at the same site 2.5 years later. By May 2002, al least 24 individuals in at least five different forests had been discovered, and permission was given by Sri Lankan wildlife authorities to collect a specimen, which was obtained on 9 November 2002 (a female). Serendib Scops Owl lacks ear-tufts but osteological comparisons showed that placement in the genus Otus is correct. Although the authors suggested that Serendib Scops Owl is probably most closely related to Reddish Scops Owl O rufecens from the Malay Peninsula and Greater Sunda Islands, further studies are needed to confirm this. Compared with other Sri Lankan species, Serendib Scops Owl only resembles the rufous morph of the local subspecies of Oriental Scops Owl O sunia leggei. At present, c 45 individuals of Serendib Scops Owl are known from five lowland rainforests in the south-western part of Sri Lanka, between 30 and 340 m above sea level. Based on present knowledge of its occurrence and because of the limited range of the five forests - covering only 230 km2 - the new species is proposed to be listed as 'Endangered'. The scientific name honours Thilo W Hoffmann, a conservationist and ornithologist in Sri Lanka.
M Indrawan and S Somadikarta described a new hawk-owl from the Togian Islands, Sulawesi, Indonesia, Togian Hawk-Owl Ninox burhani (Indrawan, M & Somadikarta, S 2004. A new hawk-owl from the Togian Islands, Gulf of Tomini, central Sulawesi, Indonesia. Bull Br Ornithol Club 124: 160-171). The Togian Islands are a small archipelago off mainland central Sulawesi, where no owl species was known to occur. On mainland Sulawesi, three other hawk-owls were known to occur: the winter visitor Brown Hawk-Owl N scutulata and the Sulawesi endemics Ochre-bellied Hawk-Owl N ochracea and the also recently described Cinnabar Hawk-Owl N ios (cf Dutch Birding 21: 372, 1999). The new owl was first heard and seen on 25 December 1999 at Benteng on Togian, one of the central islands of the archipelago. In 1999 and 2001, several further observations were made on Togian. In August 2001, also Ochre-bellied Hawk-Owl was found there. Based on observations and interviews, Togian Hawk-Owl is considered to be a resident, breeding locally on the islands Togian, Batudaka and Malenge; vocalizations heard in 2002 on Waleabahi, the easternmost island of the chain, are also believed to be delivered by Togian Hawk-Owl. The species appears to occur mainly in forests. Unfortunately, forest clearing is increasing on the islands. Ninox burhani is named after Burhan, one of several inhabitants of Benteng village who are very much involved in the study and conservation of the island's birds.
ANDRE J. VAN LOON