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New Owl Footage

Survey team captures only film of newly-discovered owl species?

A BirdLife International survey team has been the first to film a newly-discovered species of pygmy-owl. Images of the Pernambuco Pygmy-owl can be seen on the BirdLife International website: http://www.birdlife.org/news/pr/2003/06/pernambuco_owl.html In November 2001, a team including BirdLife`s Head of Communications, Adrian Long, surveyed the highly-threatened Atlantic Forest in the north-eastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco and were the first to record the owl whilst studies were already underway on two specimens collected long before to confirm them as a new species. It is only now that the work, undertaken by Jos? Maria Cardoso da Silva of Conservation International, Brazil, Galileu Coelho of the Federal University of Pernambuco and Luiz Pedreira Gonzaga from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, has been published and the newly-described owl given a name. The Pernambuco Pygmy-owl Glaucidium mooreorum has been named after the devoted conservationists, Intel founder Gordon Moore and his wife, Betty. [The discovery is detailed in Ararajuba: the Brazilian Journal of Ornithology. December 2002. Discovered on the brink of extinction: a new species of Pygmy-Owl (Strigidae: Glaucidium) from Atlantic Forest of northeastern Brazil by Luis Pedreira Gonzaga, Jos? Maria Cardoso da Silva and Galileu Coelho]. The visit to Usina Trapiche was part of a wider set of surveys to forest fragments in the northeast Brazilian states of Alagoas, Pernambuco and Para?ba. The BirdLife survey was partly funded by the Neotropical Bird Club, Wetland Fund and Gesellschaft F?r Arten-Und Populationsshutz (ZGAP). A Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship awarded by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust funded Adrian Long`s participation.The future of Pernambuco Pygmy-owl is far from assured, with the researchers instantly recommending it for classification as `Critically Endangered`. [The Pernambuco Pygmy-owl is likely to qualify as Critically Endangered according to the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List criteria. This would mean it faces an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future. See BirdLife International (2000) Threatened Birds of the World. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Editions and BirdLife]. The BirdLife International team`s sighting was in fragmented forest on a privately-owned sugarcane plantation, and the bird`s only other home is the tiny, 4.8 sq. km Saltinho Biological Reserve. The description of this owl highlights BirdLife International`s quest to protect the Atlantic forest, one of the most biodiverse yet threatened ecosystems in the world, particularly the so-called Pernambuco Centre area, where the Pernambuco Pygmy-owl lives, and which, in 1995 only had 4% of its original forest cover left. The Pernambuco Centre is biologically diverse even by Atlantic Forest standards, with 39 endemic bird species and subspecies and the largest number of threatened bird species in Brazil, 18 including Pernambuco Pygmy-owl, and Alagoas Curussow Mitu mitu, a species now Extinct in the Wild. The latest edition of World Birdwatch, BirdLife`s award-winning quarterly magazine, carries news of BirdLife`s involvement in land purchase in the region, while the establishment of Murici ecological station is detailed in the September 2001 edition. Both are available by calling +44 (0)1223 279853.However, the little-known forests in the Pernambuco Centre are severely impacted by people with forest clearance even continuing in `protected` areas. In Murici, an area in neighbouring Alagoas State, which supports the most threatened birds in the Americas and is considered one of the 15 most Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in the Atlantic Forest, BirdLife International and the Sociedade Nordestina de Ecologia are assisting the Brazilian Government to set up an ecological station. The establishment of ecological corridors connecting fragments in the region is essential to protect the isolated populations of species that survive in some 1,400 forest patches.
This owl`s discovery will probably change the assessment of the importance of this site, which is already designated an IBA with four threatened species, says Jaqueline Goerck, BirdLife International`s Brazil Program Manager. We have identified all the IBAs in the region, and just in Pernambuco State there are nine. The next step is to survey these for the species to assess whether it is present in others, and whether the owl could be protected within these sites.Adrian Long, describing the survey team`s encounter with the pygmy-owl said We found this owl through following up on alarm calls of other birds that were mobbing it. We saw it perched for more than 15 minutes as it ate a cicada. Luiz Gonzaga was familiar with pygmy-owl taxonomy so was able to confirm that no other pygmy-owls showing this type of plumage were found in this part of Brazil. We went back a few more times to the area but had no more sightings within the small forest fragment.The Pernambuco Pygmy-owl differs from the two geographically closest species, the Amazonian Pygmy-owl G. hardyi and the Least Pygmy-owl G. minutissimum, in its colouration, body shape and song.

For further information, please contact Richard Thomas at BirdLife International in Cambridge, UK: tel. +44 (0)1223 279813; email: richard.thomas@birdlife.org.uk

4th July 2014