A new owl species was found in Lombok, Indonesia and has been formally described by scientists.
Otus jolande or the Rinjani Scops owl was discovered by two separate researchers in two different dates.
The common owl is the first endemic bird species recorded on the Indonesian island of Lombok. George Sangster a lead researcher of the Department of Zoology from Stockholm University in Stockholm, Sweden said in an interview that he found the new owl species days apart from the day the researcher Ben King found it independently at a different location in Indonesia. “I found the new owl on the third of September while Ben King found it independently at a different location on the 7th of September. I was on Lombok to collect sound recordings of the local population of a species of nightjar. On the first night I arrived on Lombok, we heard the vocalizations of an owl that [I was] not familiar with.” The researcher Ben King, from the Ornithology department of American Museum of Natural History of New York, USA was coincidentally in Lombok at the same time, recording the same nightjar species even though the researchers had never met. Mr. King commented, “My experience was similar to George’s. While I was tape-recording the nightjar, I heard a song that sounded like an owl, but unlike any I would heard in years of field work in Indonesia.” Initially, Mr. Sangster was not certain whether it was a previously known species from Java and Bali that for some reason had been overlooked on Lombok. This explanation was quickly ruled out when he played back the sound recordings of the owl. “When we first heard them, the owls were very vocal, and either involved in a duet (of male and female) or a duel (between two males). Because we were not sure which species this was, we made recordings and played it back. Owls are territorial, so when their sound is played back in their territory, the owl usually comes to investigate the ‘intruder’.” The owls strongly responded to the recordings and approached the researchers, meaning the researchers had a clear view of the owls. This meant that the vocalizations were indeed the song, a crucial piece of information according to two researchers.
The researchers only realized that they had in fact discovered a new species when they checked the taxonomic literature and examined their recordings more closely.
The new owl species Rinjani Scops at first looks very similar to Moluccan Scops owl species. The Moluccan Scops owl is a species of owl that was reported to occur in Lombok, Indonesia. Previously no endemic species of birds from the island of Lombok were known. To verify their findings the scientists studied plumage differences in museums, took measurements of various body parts and analyzed the songs. They used playback in the field to determine which species are present on Lombok and Sumbawa, before using DNA data to compare all relevant species.
Further findings on the Rinjani Scops owl species:
According to the first person to have discovered the Rinjani Scops, Mr George Sangster explained that there may be further undiscovered bird species in Indonesia. “Several species have already been announced in the scientific literature but await formal description. There are probably several other species of Scops owls in Indonesia that remain overlooked, even if they are already named. Until recently, many species of owls were included as ‘subspecies’ of highly variable, widespread species. Step-by-step, we are learning that this is not always correct, and that some of those are better considered as species.” George Sangster was most surprised to have discovered that the new species was so common. “In the past, ornithologists and birdwatchers have largely ignored the island because, unlike Java, Bali, Flores and other islands in the region, no bird species were unique to it,” he told BBC Nature. Our study underscores that even after 150 years of scientific study we still do not know all birds in the Indo-Malayan region. In fact, Indonesia is a treasure trove for taxonomists.” He stated. The two researchers, Sangster and King, found the owls at several locations and often heard multiple individuals calling from different directions. He suggested how this discovery can have long-reaching implications for study.