Principe Scops-Owl Otus bikegila Scientific name definitions

Bárbara Freitas and Martim Melo
Version: 1.0 — Published October 24, 2023

Conservation and Management

The Principe Scops-Owl fulfills Red List criteria B1ab(i, ii, iii, v) for the “Critically Endangered” category, given its small extent of occurrence (EOO; 33.0 km2) and area of occupancy (AOO; 15 km2), being restricted to a single location (continuous area inside the Principe Obo Natural Park), and the inferred distribution (34.4 km2, one quarter of Principe Island), habitat, and predicted population declines (2). Based on the data presented in 2, the Red List Team of BirdLife International recommended the Principe Scops-Owl to be listed as Critically Endangered under Criterion B1ab(iii); this will be effective from December 2023.

Even though the area where Principe Scops-Owl occurs is under formal protection, the species remains under pressure, namely from infrastructure development (see Effects of Human Activity) and introduced species (41). The mona monkey (Cercopithecus mona), and the black rat (Rattus rattus), are likely to prey on the nests (eggs and chicks) and even on nesting adults (38). The high abundance of the Gray Parrot (Psittacus erithacus) may represent an additional threat, since they are likely to compete with the owl for nesting sites (5, 37). Therefore, Freitas et al. (2) considered that there is a reasonable chance of a continuing decline in the extent of occurrence and area of occupancy, habitat quality, and the number of mature individuals.

Effects of Human Activity

The Principe Scops-Owl is not directly persecuted by humans. Nevertheless, its tight association with native forest shows that it is highly sensitive to forest degradation and human disturbance. This sensitivity to habitat alteration is clearly illustrated by the absence of the Principe Scops-Owl from an area of native forest (Oquê Pipi) located less than 1 km away from forest where it occurs (2), but which was heavily impacted by tree felling over one hundred years ago (1912–1913) during a campaign to eradicate the tsetse fly (42, p. 69). In this respect, the current plans to build a hydroelectric dam in the Papagaio river are a cause of concern since the supporting infrastructures will cross the area of the northernmost records for the species (Boca do Inferno), located inside the Principe Obo Natural Park (de Lima in litt. 2022, see UNIDO 2021).

Management

Due to the species being described in late 2022, the Principe Scops-Owl was not included in the 2022–2026 management plan for the Principe Natural Park (43). Nevertheless, the species is now viewed as a top conservation priority, joining the Critically endangered Principe Thrush (Turdus xanthorhynchus) in this regard. The monitoring strategy for the Park is based on regular survey transects to collect information on a set of indicator species and other data such as human presence/activity. Park authorities and partner organizations (Fundação Principe, BirdLife International, Gulf of Guinea Biodiversity Centre) are keen in including the species in these regular surveys. Considering that the species is nocturnal and occurs in some of the most remote areas of the island, a specific survey protocol to overcome these challenges has been designed and successfully tested (35). It consists on the deployment of automatic recording units along transects, coupled with automatic scripts trained to rapidly retrieve the owl calls, and associated meta-data, from the thousand hours of recordings generated. A local team made up of staff members from the Natural Park, Fundação Principe, and BirdLife International has been trained to implement this protocol in the near future.

Recommended Citation

Freitas, B. and M. Melo (2023). Principe Scops-Owl (Otus bikegila), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (N. D. Sly, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.prisco1.01
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