Researchers in Indonesia unwittingly identified a new species of owl believed to be unique to the country, raising hopes of further new bird discoveries, a scientist said Thursday.
The brown-and-white Rinjani Scops owl was first spotted in 2003 on the island of Lombok, while researchers were looking for another nocturnal bird. It was formally identified by four scientists Wednesday in the online “Plos One” journal.
Prior to that, the bird had been mistaken for the related Moluccan Scops owl, found in the Maluku islands in central Indonesia.
“Ornithologists have long patted themselves on the back, believing that the taxonomy of birds was almost complete,” researcher George Sangster from the Swedish Museum of Natural History, told AFP.
“Our study shows that even after more than 250 years of taxonomic research, we can still find new species, even of birds.”
Sangster discovered the bird days before another researcher, Ben King made the same discovery independently when both were on the island to collect sounds of large-tailed Nightjars.
They noticed the owl’s songs were “completely different” from the Moluccan Scops owl.
He said further research should be carried out on the nearby island of Sumbawa to verify if the bird was unique to Lombok.
Ornithologists have often overlooked Lombok during field work in the region, believing there were no endemic bird species there, Sangster said.
Sangster has called for more research on birds in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago of around 17,000 islands that he calls “a treasure trove for taxonomists”.
The Rinjani Scops owl was named after the volcano in the heart of Lombok island.