The astonishing discovery of this tiny owl in 2001 in the southern rain forests of Sri Lanka stunned biologists around the world, representing the first new bird species to be identified in the country since 1868 (3). Ornithologist Deepal Warakagoda initially located the Serendib scops-owl in 1995 by its unfamiliar call, but it took a further six years of tracking this elusive and mysterious bird to eventually sight and photograph it. Thus, in 2001 it was confirmed that the owl appeared strikingly different from any other on the island or, indeed, anywhere in South Asia (4). This owl is small, short-tailed, uniformly reddish-brown, with eye-colour ranging from yellow to orange, but more orange in males (2). The bird lacks apparent ear-tufts present in most other species of scops-owl (Otus), its facial disc is only weekly defined, and only the very top parts of the lower leg are feathered (2). The owl roosts near the ground, where its colouration, size and shape camouflage it well amongst the dry and dead leaves (3).
- Height (crown to tail tip): c. 165 mm (2)