New species of owl with distinctive territorial song identified in Indonesia (Photos)
Scientists have identified a new species of owl that they believe exists only on one island in Indonesia.
The owl looks similar to another common Indonesian owl, the Moluccan scops owl, with brown and white feathers and golden eyes.
But it has a distinctive territorial song, which the researchers describe as "a single whistle without pronounced overtones".
Researchers from Sweden and the United States have named the species, found in the foothills of Mount Rinjani on the island of Lombok, the Rinjani scops owl.
After 10 years of work verifying their claim, they have now published their findings in the latest edition of PLos One.
The Lombok owls were first categorised in 1896. Then, the German ornithologist Ernst Hartert described the cry as "a clear but not very loud 'pwok'."
Because of their appearance, they were long believed to belong to the same species as the Moluccan scops owl, which is widespread on other Indonesian islands.
But in 2003, while carrying out research on another bird on Lombok, two scientists noticed their songs were different to what they had heard just weeks earlier on the island of Flores.
Scientists determined the birds' species by playing recordings of the owl songs into the forest.
The Lombok owls did not react to the song of the Moluccan scops owl or the call of another bird, Wallace's scops owl.
However, when the researchers played recordings they had taped on Lombok, the birds responded by singing and approaching the loudspeaker.
Owls, like many other birds, do not learn different calls. Instead, scientists believe their distinctive calls have a genetic basis and so can be used to distinguish species from each other. (Source)