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New owl species discovered on tiny African island in Gulf of Guinea

Researchers say the Principe scops owl is found exclusively on the island.
Gulf of Guinea in west Africa
Posted at 6:33 PM, Nov 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-04 11:12:41-04

Researchers in west Africa say they believe they've discovered a brand new owl species.

The Principe scops owl, as it is called, was found on a tiny tropical island off the coast of west Africa, located in the Gulf of Guinea.

The researchers say they believe it is found exclusively on the island called Príncipe.

While there was recorded evidence that it existed, dating back to at least 1998, scientists say they first started researching the owl trying to locate the species in 2016.

A local guide who also acted as a harvester of gray parrots on the island later became a ranger for a park there and is credited with playing a significant role in locating the new species.

"Bikegila," as he is known, is credited with the discovery. He is said to have been one of the first known people to spot the bird in the 1990s.

National Geographic reported that “for nearly a quarter century, he’s assisted scientists on every expedition undertaken to find the owl, including the trip that led to the first-ever photographic evidence of the species, in 2016."

Scientists had to use various key indicators to decipher if the owl was actually new.

The owl is one of 59 species of scops-owl. This one is called the O. bikegila.

Bárbara Freitas, an evolutionary biologist at the Spanish National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid said, “We have multiple pieces, like the owl’s vocalizations, its morphology, and its genetics, and then we can put together all the data and see if it was actually new.”

Nigel Collar, an African scops owl expert at the nonprofit BirdLife International said, "It’s very good to see this owl finally being described."

"They have clearly done a very professional job," he said.