The diminutive Flores scops-owl (Otus alfredi) is an elusive species, endemic to the island of Flores, Indonesia (5). Doubt arose over the actual existence of the owl after it remained unreported for over a century following its description in 1897. However, the capture of a juvenile in 1994 established the validity of the species (6), and there have been several (albeit infrequent) recordings of the bird since (2).
The facial disc of the Flores scops-owl is a solid, bright reddish-brown, and the bird sports white eyebrows, short, rounded reddish-brown ear tufts, yellow eyes and an orange-yellow bill (6). Fine white markings can be seen on the forehead of the Flores scops-owl, while the upperparts are uniform dark rufous, with a collar of small white triangles around the hind neck (7). The wing feathers are reddish-brown with white barring on the primary feathers and white markings on the shoulders. Pale, unmarked underparts contrast against the Flores scops-owl’s reddish-brown chest and flanks, and the lower flanks and belly are patterned with fine, dark irregular lines (5). Juvenile Flores scops-owls are pale rufous, with some faint barring (7).
The Flores scops-owl’s feet and claws are orange-yellow, with the claws lacking dark tips, and the lower legs are thickly feathered apart from the bottom third which is bare (6).
Vocalisations in this species are divided into two main types, often delivered as a duet by a pair of birds. ‘Single calls’ are short, sharp notes produced in 1.5- to 2.5-second intervals, and ‘territorial calls’ comprise a loud burst of short, rapid notes (5).
- Also known as
- Flores scops owl.
- Length: 19 - 21 cm (2)
- Wing length: 13.7 - 16 cm (3)
Flores scops-owl biology
Although the taxonomic and population status of many species within the Otus genus remains unclear, few of the owls are more poorly known than the Flores scops-owl, and further research into its biological and ecological requirements is urgently needed (6).
Flores scops-owl range
As its name suggests, the Flores scops-owl is endemic to the island of Flores, Indonesia, where it occupies a very small range of only two localities in the western mountains (1) (2). Local reports have suggested that the Flores scops-owl may also be present on Gunung Repok in the Todo mountains of south-west Flores, but population data is severely lacking and the true status of the species is largely unknown (2) (7).
Flores scops-owl habitat
A forest-dwelling species of humid montane forest, the Flores scops-owl is known to occur at elevations above 1,000 metres (7), and it is thought to nest in the cavities of trees (3).
Flores scops-owl status
The Flores scops-owl is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1), and is listed on Appendix II of CITES (4).
Flores scops-owl threats
Although exact population numbers are unknown, it is widely agreed that the Flores scops-owl is almost certainly endangered (7). Threats to this species include increasing habitat fragmentation and loss, resulting from shifting cultivation and urbanisation, and habitat management techniques such as dry season burn-off (2).
A contributing factor to the restricted range of the Flores scops-owl may also be interspecific competition with a similar species, the Moluccan scops-owl (Otus magicus albiventris)(5). Furthermore, if the Flores scops-owl does exist in small, isolated populations, there is an increased probability of extinction due to chance events or the loss of genetic variation caused by inbreeding (8).
Flores scops-owl conservation
The Flores scops-owl is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which means that trade in this species should be carefully controlled and monitored (4).
There is still much that is unknown about this elusive bird, which may be because it is thought to be largely silent during the dry season, making attempts to locate it difficult. Extensive night-timefieldwork, armed with the recent knowledge on vocalisations, has been recommended to determine its current population status (2).
The Flores scops-owl has recently been recorded at the Ruteng Nature Recreation Park, and there are plans underway to implement active management for this site and also to extend the remit of the sanctuary status of the park to neighbouring areas of forest, to protect the owl and its habitat (1) (2).
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Find out more about the Flores scops-owl:
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- A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Genetic variation
- The variety of genes within a particular species, population or breed causing differences in morphology, physiology and behaviour.
- A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
- The breeding of closely related individuals. An inbred population usually has less genetic variability and this is generally disadvantageous for its long-term survival and success.
- Arising or occurring between different species.
- Montane forest
- Forest occurring in mountains.
- Primary feathers
- The main flight feathers projecting along the outer edge of a bird’s wing.
- Relating to taxonomy, the science of classifying organisms, grouping together animals which share common features and are thought to have a common ancestor.
- Describes an animal, a pair of animals or a group that occupies and defends an area.
IUCN Red List (April, 2013)
BirdLife International - Flores scops-owl (April, 2013)
König, C. and Weick, F. (2008) Owls of the World. A&C Black Publishers Ltd, London.
CITES (April, 2013)
Hutchinson, R., Eaton, J., Demeulemeester, B. and Rheindt, F.E. (2007) Observations of Flores scops owl Otus alfredi on Flores, Indonesia, with a first description of its vocalisations. Forktail, 23: 184-187.
Widodo, W., Cox, J.H. and Rasmussen, P.C. (1999) Rediscovery of the Flores scops owl Otus alfredi on Flores, Lesser Sunda Islands, Indonesia, and reaffirmation of its specific status. Forktail, 15: 15-23.
del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J. and Cabot, J. (1999) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 5: Barn-owls to Hummingbirds. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
Frankham, R., Ballou, J.D. and Briscoe, D.A. (2004) A Primer of Conservation Genetics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.