Science and Nature

Scops-Owl Subspecies Missing for 125 Years Rediscovered in Malaysia

Otus brookii brookii, a subspecies of the Rajah scops-owl (Otus brookii) that had been lost to science since 1892, has been stumbled on alive and photographed in the montane forests of Mount Kinabalu in Borneo, Malaysia.

The first photograph of the Bornean Rajah scops-owl (Otus brookii brookii) in the wild. Image credit: Andy Boyce.

The most important photograph of the Bornean Rajah scops-owl (Otus brookii brookii) in the wild. Image credit: Andy Boyce.

“It became a fairly snappily development of emotions when I first saw the owl — absolute shock and pleasure that we’d stumbled on this legendary bird, then pure fear that I needed to document it as instant as I could,” talked about Dr. Andy Boyce, an ecologist in the Conservation Ecology Center at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Montana Cooperative Wildlife Learn Unit at the College of Montana.

“In response to dimension, notion coloration and habitat, I knew it became the Bornean Rajah scops-owl.”

“What’s extra, taking into legend this bird’s verbalize plumage characters, known speciation patterns within the Otus genus and phylogeographic patterns of montane birds in Borneo and Sumatra, Otus brookii brookii is probably going its gain uncommon species and extra search for is wanted.”

Dr. Boyce and colleagues rediscovered Otus brookii brookii in Would possibly perhaps perhaps 2016 in the montane forests of Mount Kinabalu on the island of Borneo at an elevation of 1,650 m.

The researchers furthermore captured the most important photos of this subspecies in the wild.

“Sadly, we are solely fair appropriate at conserving what we know and what we name,” Dr. Boyce talked about.

“If this uncommon bird is endemic solely to Borneo and is its gain species, conservation action is extra likely.”

“Our sole sighting all the contrivance in which by technique of this intensive search for confirms this owl lives in mature montane forests, likely above or beneath the look assign.”

“These elevations are already threatened by habitat loss on account of local climate alternate, deforestation and palm oil pattern.”

“To protect this bird, we desire a firm figuring out of its habitat and ecology.”

Practically all data on the Rajah scops-owl is of the Sumatran subspecies. The vocalizations, distribution, breeding biology and population dimension of the Bornean subspecies are totally unknown.

Despite the shortage of data on the species and subspecies, and the apparent rarity of the Bornean subspecies, the Rajah scops-owl became designated a species of Least Dispute by the IUCN.

“Practically all traditional factors of this species’ ecology dwell unknown, in conjunction with vocalizations, distribution, breeding biology, and population dimension,” the scientists talked about.

“Furthermore, phylogeographic patterns of montane birds in Borneo and Sumatra, moreover to plumage characters, counsel that Otus brookii brookii will most likely be deserving of species classification.”

“On the opposite hand, the rarity of Otus brookii brookii has made quantitative phylogenetic prognosis very no longer really.”

“Neatly resolving the ecology, distribution, and taxonomic standing of Otus brookii brookii could perhaps enjoy most important conservation implications.”

The crew’s paper became revealed in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology.


Emily Card et al. 2021. Rediscovery of Rajah Scops-Owl (Otus brookii brookii) on the island of Borneo. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 132 (3): 769-773; doi: 10.1676/20-50

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