Socotra scops owl
Scops socotranus.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae
Genus: Otus
Species:
O. socotranus
Binomial name
Otus socotranus

The Socotra scops owl (Otus socotranus) is a small owl endemic to the island of Socotra, Yemen.

Description

A very small scops owl which is heavily streaked and barred on its pale sandy-grey upperparts, paler underparts with darker shaft streaks and fine, dark barring. The plain facial disc has vague margins and the shoulder stripe is not as conspicuous as in other scops owls and are sandy coloured. The ear tufts are very small and the eyes are yellow. Length is 15–16 cm (5.9–6.3 in).

Voice

The song of the Socotra scops owl is a repeated, low pitched series of notes which is similar to that described for the oriental scops owl Otus sunia.

Distribution and habitat

The Socotra scops owl is endemic to the Indian Ocean island of Socotra off the Horn of Africa, which is within the territory of Yemen. On Socotra it is found on over 45% of the island, most numerous in areas where there are mature palms. Its preferred habitat is rocky semi-desert with scattered trees and bushes.

Habits

Very little is known about the behaviour of the Socotra scops owl, it probably mainly feeds on insects and small vertebrates; the stomach contents of a single specimen contained a grasshoppers, a centipede and two lizards. It has also been observed hawking for moths at dusk, in a similar fashion to a nightjar. Very little is known about its breeding behaviour but a female with enlarged ovaries was caught in April. It probably uses natural cavities for nesting. Two 20-day-old young have been recorded on the nest in February, their age suggesting that the eggs were laid in early January.

Taxonomy

The Socotra scops owl was previously lumped with the African scops owl Otus senegalensis but differences in plumage and vocalisations have led to it being split to a separate species. Recent genetic research suggests that its closest relatives are the Oriental scops owl and the Seychelles scops owl Otus insularis. An interesting theory this research has led to is that the oriental scops owl is a taxon that evolved from a colonisation of the continent from island ancestors, an event which had previously been thought unlikely because island taxa were thought to be less competitive than related continental taxa.