The Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe officially has a new species of bird, the Principe Scops-Owl, which brings the Central African island nations’ number of endemic bird species to 28, a world record.
“The discovery of the Principe Scops-Owl was only possible thanks to the local knowledge shared by [park ranger Ceciliano do Bom Jesus, nicknamed] Bikegila and by his unflinching efforts to solve this long-time mystery,” as stated in the study. “As such, the name is also meant as an acknowledgment to all locally-based field assistants who are crucial in advancing the knowledge on the biodiversity of the world.”
Believed by the population to inhabit the islands since 1928, the Principe Scops-Owl – or Otus bikegila – has a distinct voice and song that sounds like insect noises, a short “tuu” note produced at a fast repetition rate. Given that the population is rather small despite its density – between 1,000 and 1,500 individuals live in the uninhabited part of the Príncipe Obô Natural Park, a 15-square-kilometer area – it has been recommended that the new bird species be put on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s critically endangered list. The island of Príncipe now has eight endemic bird species, an unusually high number for an area of only 139 square kilometers. And both islands together now have a total of 28 endemic bird species, the highest number in the world for a single country.