Principe Scops-Owl Otus bikegila Scientific name definitions

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


Systematics History

Otus bikegila Melo, Freitas, Verbelen, Costa, Pereira, Fuchs, Sangster, Correia, de Lima and Crottini, 2022, ZooKeys 1126: 1-54. — 1°33.03'N, 7°22.29'E, ca. 500 m NW of Ribeira Porco river mouth (100 m a.s.l.), South Príncipe, Príncipe Island.

The holotype, an adult female collected by Hugo Pereira and Ceciliano do Bom Jesus on 29 May 2017 (ML470442301), is held at the Museu de História Natural e da Ciência da Universidade do Porto [MHNC-UP], (MHNC-UP-AVE7000) (1).

Geographic Variation

None described, and unlikely given the small range.



Related Species

Phylogenetic analysis of molecular data place Otus bikegila as the sister lineage of the clade containing all African scops-owl species of the Afro-Palearctic clade (Sao Tome Scops-Owl (Otus hartlaubi), African Scops-Owl (Otus senegalensis), Pemba Scops-Owl (Otus pembaensis)), rather than as the sister species of Sao Tome Scops-Owl, endemic to the neighboring island of São Tomé (1).


None known, or expected, as Principe Scops-Owl is the only owl that occurs on Principe.


The species name is a patronym honouring Ceciliano do Bom Jesus, known as ‘Bikegila’ (pronounced beak-gee-la). The species epithet name is intentionally defined as an invariable noun in apposition (not a noun in the genitive case) for better pronunciation; no confusion with the species authority is possible because the noun is an oral nickname. Bikegila, a native of Príncipe Island, began the ‘Príncipe Scops-Owl saga’ in 1998, when he shared with Martim Melo reports of two sightings of birds that looked like owls in parrot nests. Since then, Bikegila took part in every field effort that led to the bird’s discovery for science; he also led the capture of all sampled individuals, including the holotype, which required ingenious ways to erect canopy nets. For almost 25 years, Bikegila has put all his resources, including bottomless fieldwork skills and a vast knowledge of Príncipe, towards the successful completion of innumerable research projects in a terrain that the collector José Correia considered to be the “bad among the bad or the worse among the worse” [sic] (Diary, 2 September 1928, Archives AMNH, New York). Besides his skills, Bikegila’s “cheerful temperament, possibly the first requirement for an undertaking in inhospitable regions” (28), coupled with an unbeatable gift for story-telling and an underlying quiet wisdom, contributes as much to making the expeditions he leads memorable and successful. A former parrot harvester, Bikegila became a warden of Príncipe Obô Natural Park soon after its creation; he is now a much sought-after nature guide. We believe that most field researchers are grateful to the ‘Bikegilas’ with whom they are/were honoured to work with. As such, the name is also in recognition of all the people, around the world, who through their deep relationship with and knowledge of the regions they inhabit, play key roles in the description of new species and of new sites to science.

Fossil History

None known.

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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