JAKARTA, Indonesia — A new species of owl believed to exist nowhere else in the world has been identified by accident on an Indonesian island when researchers in search of another bird noticed its distinct song.
The Rinjani Scops owl was first identified in 2003 and has since been spotted only on Lombok island, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the popular resort island of Bali. The findings were published Wednesday in the online journal PLOS ONE.
The small owl, with brown and white feathers and big golden eyes, was confused with a similar-looking species for more than a century. But scientists from Sweden and the U.S., who were visiting the island doing separate research on another nocturnal bird, both recorded the Rinjani Scops owl’s vocalizations. They noticed that its whistled note was entirely different from other songs, including that of the widespread Moluccan Scops owl, or Otus magicus.