Latest news on ‘Omani Owl’

10 Sep 2015 - 15:24 -- Guy Kirwan

The discovery (and description) in 2013 by Magnus Robb and the Sound Approach of Omani Owl (Strix omanensis) caused much excitement and interest among birders, especially when another group of researchers (Kirwan et al. 2015) re-examined specimens of the closely related Hume’s Owl (Strix butleri), and published a paper suggesting that its type specimen was in fact the same species as Omani Owl. All of the other specimens of Hume’s Owl in existence proved to belong to a different species, based on morphological and genetic data, which Kirwan et al. (2015) described as a new species, Strix hadorami. In a new paper, not yet submitted for publication but already available online, Magnus Robb and his colleagues have reported that a genetic sample from a live Omani Owl taken this year is identical to that of the type of Strix butleri. In other words, they were able to confirm not only the existence of two species of Strix owls in the deserts of Arabia and nearby regions, but also that Kirwan et al. (2015) had been correct in their assertions concerning the identity of Omani Owl. The new paper also examined DNA from an owl discovered in Mashhad, NE Iran in Jan 2015 (see news item ‘Hume’s Owl in Iran’) and confirmed that it is the same as the bird they named Omani Owl, and the type specimen of Strix butleri, providing the first confirmation that the species still exists outside the Arabian Peninsula and 1300 km from the nearest record.

Robb, M.S., Sangster, G., Aliabadian, M., van den Berg, A.B., Constantine, M., Irestedt, M., Khani, A., Musavi, S.B., Nunes, J.M., Sarrouf Willson, M. & Walsh, A.J. (2015). The rediscovery of Strix butleri (Hume, 1878) in Oman and Iran, with molecular resolution of the identity of Strix omanensis Robb, van den Berg and Constantine, 2013. doi: 


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A. O. Hume, 1878, Omara, Makran Coast, southern Baluchistan..

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Kirwan et al., 2015, Lower Wadi Kelt (=Wadi Al-Qelt/Wadi Qilt), northeast of Jerusalem, Israel/Palestinian Territories (31º 50’ N, 35º24’ E)..

Probably closely related to S. aluco. Formerly treated as conspecific with latter, but clearly different in plumage, eye colour and vocal...

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figure, drawing, illustration of Desert Tawny Owl (Strix hadorami)