Rinjani scops owl (Otus jolandae)

GenusOtus (1)
Top facts

The Rinjani scops owl is not yet classified on the IUCN Red List. 

Originally mistaken for the Moluccan scops owl (Otus magicus), the Rinjani scops owl (Otus jolandae) was first discovered in 2003 but not formally described until 2013. This ‘whistling’ owl species was identified by its unique call, which is significantly different from that of the species it was first attributed to (1) (2).

The chin and throat of the Rinjani scops owl are barred white and rich brown, while the forehead has slightly darker barring. This species has a white eyebrow above each eye, the feathers of which are finely edged with rich brown.The Rinjani scops owl has reddish-brown to brownish-green ear tufts and brownish-green feathers on top of the head. The back of its neck is warmer brown compared to the top of the head as a result of interspersed warm-buff feathers. The plumage on the back and rump is warm brown with faint rich brown barring, and the uppertail-coverts are paler brownish-green in comparison (1).

The Rinjani scops owl’s breast is warm reddish-buff with thin white and brown barring, and its belly is also barred with white and brown. The white undertail-coverts have thin rich brown and broad reddish-brown bars. Its legs are feathered down to the base of the toes and are whitish-buff with weak brown spots or bars. This species’ wings are barred with various shades of brown (1).

The call of the Rinjani scops owl is described as a short, single whistle that is given at a relatively constant pitch (1). 

The Rinjani scops owl is endemic to Lombok in Indonesia. It is found in the western, central and northern parts of the island, including the Gunung Rinjani National Park (1).

Within Lombok, the Rinjani scops owl occurs in both undisturbed and degraded forest, as well as in open landscapes where trees are patchily distributed. This species has been recorded at elevations of between 25 and 1,350 metres (1).

The distribution of the Rinjani scops owl among undisturbed primary forest and degraded secondary forest indicates that this species is not dependent on pristine forest to survive (1). 

Observed to be a particularly vocal bird, the Rinjani scops owl gives its unique whistling call either in a duet, involving a male and a female, or in a duel between two males (3).  Like other owls, the Rinjani scops owl is territorial, and will readily approach an intruding owl of the same species (1) (3). It has been recorded calling between May and September, which indicates that it is territorial for much of the year (1).

Despite belonging to the most species-rich owl genus, scops owls are still quite poorly understood. The Rinjani scops owl is the first bird species to be identified as endemic to Lombok, and its vocalisations differ from any other known species from the Otus genus. Owl vocalisations are not learned and are therefore suspected to have a genetic basis (1). 

Lowland forest on Lombok has been severely degraded to make way for agricultural crops (3). Illegal logging is also a major threat to Lombok’s unique forest, and could put many of the island’s endemic species, including the Rinjani scops owl, at risk from habitat loss (4). In addition, Indonesia is a region that is increasingly affected by climate change, with an increase in severe drought, flooding, fire, extreme weather conditions and a rise in sea level (5).

No known conservation measures are currently in place for the Rinjani scops owl. Despite extensive deforestation on Lombok there remain some areas of potentially suitable forest for the Rinjani scops owl on the south-western part of the island. Further study is necessary to determine the exact distribution and elevational range of this species, as well as a population estimate (3). WWF is undertaking reforestation efforts in the Rinjani forest, and is also working with local people to enable them to take steps to adapt to impacts caused by climate change (5). 

Find out more on the Rinjani scops owl:

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  1. Sangster, G., King, B., Verbelen, P. and Trainor, C. (2013) A new owl species of the genus Otus (Aves: Strigidae) from Lombok, Indonesia. PLoS One, 8(2): 1-13. Available at:
  2. Hance, J. (2013) Unique song reveals new owl species in Indonesia. Mongabay, 13 February. Available at:
  3. BBC Nature (2013) A new owl species from Indonesia is formally described. BBC Nature News, 14 February. Available at:
  4. WWF Hong Kong - My baby tree program (February, 2013)
  5. WWF Indonesia - Indonesia’s Lombok Island and its first step to adapt to the impacts of Climate Change (February, 2013)