Two new species of owl recognized from the Philippines08/09/2012 14:37:57 Owls recognized by their distinctive calls
September 2012. Two new species of owls have been discovered in the Philippines, and a Michigan State University researcher played a key role in confirming their existence.
The discovery took years to confirm, but it was well worth the effort, said the paper's lead author Pam Rasmussen, MSU assistant professor of zoology and assistant curator of mammalogy and ornithology at the MSU Museum.
Announcing the finding of a single bird is rare enough. But the discovery of two new bird species in a single paper is so rare that Rasmussen and the other researchers couldn't recall the last time it happened.
"The owls don't learn their songs, which are genetically programmed in their DNA and are used to attract mates or defend their territory; so if they're very different, they must be new species," Rasmussen said. "When we first heard the songs of both owls, we were amazed because they were so distinctly different that we realized they were new species."
The owls have avoided recognition as distinct species for so long because the group shows complex variation in appearance that had been poorly studied, and their songs were unknown. Both islands are off the beaten path for ornithologists and birders, who usually visit the larger islands that host more bird species.
Sound recordings of both new owl species and those from other islands are available free on AVoCet.
Since the discovery process is both tedious and time consuming, it took a team of scientists and contributors to confirm the owls' existence. The team included individuals from BirdLife International, the Oriental Bird Club, Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. and Birdtour Asia. Additional support was provided by National Geographic.
The discovery is featured in the current issue of Forktail, the Journal of Asian Ornithology.