Owl spotted in remote area of Oman could be species new to science

Oct. 4, 2013 at 6:15 PM
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MUSCAT, Oman, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- An owl discovered in a remote, mountainous region of Oman could be a newly recognized species based on its distinctive, unfamiliar hoot, ornithologists say.

Wildlife sound recordist Magnus Robb -- who is part of an international project called the Sound Approach that aims to catalog and understand bird sound -- told the BBC he captured the bird's call while trying to record the call of another type of owl.

"I was listening through my headphones, when I suddenly heard something completely different [to the owl species I was there to record]," Robb said. "I know the other Arabian owl sounds quite well, and this was clearly something that didn't fit."

After repeated trips to the remote site, Robb and a naturalist colleague were able to capture photographs of the bird. The photographs suggested the owl was a member of group of species known as Strix, which also contains the Tawny Owl of Britain and Europe, experts said.

If DNA evidence from the owl's feathers can confirm it as a new species, Robb said he hoped eventually to name the new species the Omani owl, in honor of the Omani people.

"One of the reasons we've gone through this process of describing and confirming this as a new species so quickly is to get conservation for this owl as soon as possible," he said, noting only seven of the birds have been observed in a remote area of Oman.

"This suggests that it's a very rare creature indeed," he said.

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