Zoology Professor Pam Rasmussen was part of an effort spanning years to confirm the rare birds are in fact new species.
"More than 15 years ago, we realized that new subspecies of Ninox hawk-owls existed in the Philippines," she said. "But it wasn't until last year that we obtained enough recordings that we could confirm that they were not just subspecies, but two new species of owls."
The first owl, the Camiguin Hawk-owl, is found only on the small island of Camiguin Sur, close to northern Mindanao, and is the only known owl species to have blue-gray eyes.
The second, the Cebu Hawk-owl, was thought to be extinct, as the forests of Cebu have almost all been lost due to deforestation.
In both cases it was the distinctive songs of the owls that suggested new classifications were necessary, Rasmussen said.
"The owls don't learn their songs, which are genetically programmed in their DNA and are used to attract mates or defend their territory; so if they're very different, they must be new species," she said.
"When we first heard the songs of both owls, we were amazed because they were so distinctly different that we realized they were new species."
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