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Extinction Countdown

Extinction Countdown

News and research about endangered species from around the world

Sunday Species Snapshot: Forest Owlet

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forest owlet Tarique SaniScientific fraud almost led to this tiny owl's extinction.

Species name: Forest owlet (Heteroglaux blewitti). Known locally as dongar dudaa.

Where found: About a dozen locations in the forests of central India. The small, stocky bird species went unseen by scientists from 1884 until its rediscovery in 1997, mostly because of a scientific fraud in the early Twentieth Century that claimed the species was found in a different Indian state. This fraud compromised the scientific record and led to an incorrect assumption that the species had gone extinct. This meant the species did not receive any conservation aid during the time when its population was in decline.

BirdLife status: Critically Endangered. Population estimates range from a low of 50 birds to a high of just 400.

Major threat: Deforestation has eliminated many of the owlet's former habitats and restricted its current range. The current population remains severely fragmented.

Notable conservation programs: Ongoing surveys hope to find more of the birds — or at least provide more accurate population counts — and education and awareness programs may help save some of the remaining habitat from destruction. The owlet is protected under Indian and international law and a conservation recovery plan is reportedly in the works.

Multimedia: You're going to love this short video, which shows a forest owlet moving its head back and forth and partially spreading its rather magnificent wings while a group of birdwatchers (and their clicking cameras) look on:

You can also hear a few seconds of owlet calls in this short video:

Photo by Tarique Sani via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license

Previous Sunday Snapshots:

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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