New species of owl discovered in Middle East

The omani owl was located in a remote mountainous region of Oman

Undated handout photo issued by Keith Betton Consulting of an omani owl, a species completely new to science.

Undated handout photo issued by Keith Betton Consulting of an omani owl, a species completely new to science.

 

Ornithologists have discovered a completely new species of owl.

The species, completely new to science, was discoverd in Oman in the Middle East and is a little bigger than the tawny owl and has been named the omani owl.

Tracked down in a remote mountain region, the owl was first noticed in March this year when it called while researchers were making sound recordings of another species.

Ornithologist and sound-recordist Magnus Robb said he had not heard anything like it before.

He said: “I was recording a species I know well, when I noticed some faint owl-like hooting in the background with a rhythm I had never heard before. “My colleague Rene Pop and I tried in vain to find the mystery bird again the next night, but it was only on the last night of our trip that we heard it again. We had to leave for the airport with the unseen owl hooting up on a cliff.”

Mr Robb returned a month later, accompanied by colleague Arnoud B van den Berg.

Mr Robb continued: “Tracking it down again wasn’t easy. This owl inhabits vertical terrain and its voice is difficult to hear. Worse still, in April the bird was virtually silent. Eventually we heard one. What a relief to actually glimpse it perched on a rock, confirming that this was indeed an owl and looked like nothing we had seen before.”

In May and July the team made two more research trips to look for new individuals, gather photographs and sound recordings, and observe behaviour. After critical analysis, they concluded this was indeed a new owl for science, and the first bird species to be discovered in Arabia for 77 years.

Details of its discovery are being published today in ornithological journal, Dutch Birding.

PA