Mindanao scops-owl (Otus mirus)

Synonyms: Otus scops mirus
Spanish: Autillo de Mindanao
GenusOtus (1)
SizeLength: 19 – 20 cm (2)

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

The Latin name mirus, meaning unusual or striking, is a reference to the Mindanao scops-owl’s bold markings (4). The owl’s greyish-brown head and upperparts are heavily marked with blackish streaks and blotches, and the whitish underparts are interlaced with a criss-crossed pattern of fine and heavy black lines. At the back of the neck a row of white spots form a distinct collar, and the whitish feathers at the shoulders form two prominent white lines. The ear tufts are reasonably small and whitish, the eyes are brownish-yellow and the bill is greenish-grey (2) (4). The Mindanao scops-owl’s call is said to resemble that of a pigeon or dove, and consists of two soft double notes (2).

The Mindanao scops-owl is endemic to the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, where it has been recorded at four sites: Mount Hilong-hilong, Mount Apo, Mount Kitanglad and Lake Sebu (5).

The Mindanao scops-owl occupies high-elevation mountain rainforest (6).

Little is known about this species’ biology at present (5). Like many of the smaller, forest-dwelling scops-owl species, it probably spends the day concealed in the trees, camouflaged by its heavily patterned plumage, and emerges at dusk to feed on insects and possibly larger prey items (7).

Logging, mining and clearance for agriculture are major threats to Mindanao’s forests, and even though sites such as Mount Apo and Mount Kitangland are classified as National Parks, these activities continue illegally (5). The Mindanao scops-owl’s restricted range and apparent rarity place it in a vulnerable position, but fortunately it is a resident of the mountains’ higher elevations where detrimental human activities are much less common (6). Nevertheless, with resources at lower elevations becoming scarcer, without a change in protected area management, inevitably the Mindanao scops-owl’s habitat will become targeted for exploitation (5).

Through the National Integrated Protected Area System (NIPAS), Philippine protected areas are currently being redeveloped, and new protected sites are being designated that will benefit from improved management and enforcement of regulations (8). In order to ensure that the Mindanao scops-owl is effectively protected under this new system, surveys of its population and research into its biology must be undertaken (5). This may help influence which areas receive protection, and inform management strategies that could benefit this striking owl.

To learn more about the current status and conservation of Philippine forests visit:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)