VIDEO: Move Over, Temple Owls! Two New Owl Species Discovered in Philippines

By Anthony Smith on August 20, 2012 2:32 PM EDT

owls
These two new species of owls were discovered in the Philippines (Photo: Oriental Bird Club/John Gale)

If you're an Owls fan, you may be disappointed that even though the Temple Owls will re-enter the Big East in 2012, many sports experts aren't terribly optimistic about their chances; but if you're a fan of owls in general, you'll be excited to know that two new, breathtaking species of owls were just discovered in the Philippines.

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The new discovery, currently featured in the most recent issue of Forktail, the go-to Journal for Asian Ornithology, took many years of cross-checking the new find against known species of owls to confirm that these were, in fact, birds of never-before-seen-feathers. Fortunately for everyone involved in the hunt, the two owls were, in fact, new species.

"More than 15 years ago, we realized that new subspecies of Ninox hawk-owls existed in the Philippines," said Pam Rasmussen, the lead author of the paper about the find and the assistant professor of zoology at Michigan State University and assistant curator of mammalogy and ornithology at Michigan State University Museum, "But it wasn't until last year that we obtained enough recordings that we could confirm that they were not just subspecies, but two new species of owls."

It's rare enough that any researcher should get the privilege of announcing the discovery of a single new species of bird. This discovery of two new species of owls in a single paper is practically unprecedented in the world of ornithology; so much so that Rasmussen and her research team couldn't think of the last time that such a one-two punch of science happened.

The Camiguin Hawk-owl, the first of the new species, can be found only on the minuscule island of Camiguin Sur, close to the Northern tip of the Muslim island of Mindanao. In spite of its geographical proximity to the species of owls found on Mindanao, its cry and its physical attributes are worlds apart. During the evening, it performs a lengthy solo song that grows more and more intense as it continues, marked by a very distinct low growl. Owls hooting in pairs communicate with one another through short barks that begin in growls. Notably, these are also the only species of owl to have blue-gray eye coloring.

The Cebu Hawk-owl, the second of the new discoveries, was thought to be extinct until the publication of this paper. The forests of Cebu have been utterly decimated due to Philippine deforestation, and ultimately this bird, though believed to be frequently encountered, was never quite considered to be a new species until now. But like the Camiguin, the Cebu Hawk-owl has its own distinct song that warrants its distinction as a new species.

"The owls don't learn their songs, which are genetically programmed in their DNA and are used to attract mates or defend their territory; so if they're very different, they must be new species," said Rasmussen. "When we first heard the songs of both owls, we were amazed because they were so distinctly different that we realized they were new species."

These owls haven't been recognized as new species until now due to a superficial studying of their features. Take a gander below:

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