Principe Scops-Owl Otus bikegila Scientific name definitions

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



Field records and species distribution modeling show that the Principe Scops-Owl is most likely confined to a remarkably small area of 34.4 km2 (but an area of occupancy of 15 km2; see Conservation Status) within the Príncipe Obô Natural Park, in the south of Príncipe Island (2). This area includes the mountainous area of the island that rises up to 948 m above sea level at Pico do Príncipe. Most of the records come from Ribeira Porco, Camp Tomé, and Boca do Inferno (close to Santa Joaquina), but recent records have also confirmed its presence near Praia Cará, Barriga Branca, and Focinho de Cão (8, 2).

The presence of the Principe Scops-Owl is strongly influenced by the three intertwined variables of habitat remoteness, low human disturbance, and availability of native forest. The species is mostly detected closer to the coast, although it avoids its immediate vicinity, which has been largely altered by anthropogenic activity, primarily plantations of coconut groves. Overall, it does seem to be mostly confined to lower altitudes, which may be correlated with the abundance of insects. Due to the difficulty in surveying areas at higher elevations, which are mostly restricted to steep cliffs or difficult-to-access areas, the higher altitudinal limit of the owl's estimated distribution range (the mountainous area including Pico do Príncipe) may have been overestimated and the actual distribution may be even smaller than the current estimate (2).

Historical Changes to the Distribution

Príncipe Island was discovered, uninhabited, by the Portuguese in 1471 (29). It was entirely covered with rainforest (30), stratified with elevation into lowland rainforest (~0–800 m) and montane rainforest, restricted to narrow areas close to the highest peak (Pico do Príncipe, 948 m). All lowland forests of Príncipe have been disturbed by different levels of human activity at different times in the past; today, native forest is restricted to the Príncipe Natural Park that covers ca. 21% of the island (31). Considering the habitat preferences of the Principe Scops-Owl, it is likely that it was widespread and common on the whole island previous to human colonization. The relatively flat and low lying platform of the northern half of the island was likely its stronghold, but this was also the first area to be cleared by humans for agriculture.

Distribution of the Principe Scops-Owl - Range Map
  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the Principe Scops-Owl

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.
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