It was any birders dream come true: not only to see one of the world’s rarest birds, but to discover a new unknown population. Israeli birder, Shachar Alterman, was surveying birds with the UK organization Neotropical Primate Conservation in Peruvian cloud forest when he heard and then saw the long whiskered owlet.
“At first moment I thought it was a frog, since it sounded coarser than the playback I have. But you really couldn’t mistake it for nothing else,” Alterman said in a press release. “Suddenly it felt as the whole forest is full with Lechusitas [the common local nickname for the bird in Peru]. A moment before, everything was silent, and then you just couldn’t stop hearing them calling from all different corners.” He added that “the bird itself was perched five meters above our head, gazing at us as surprised, I believe, as we were”.
Alterman’s discovery was the first sighting of the long whiskered owlet Xenoglaux loweryi since 2007. The species was only discovered in 1976 when it was caught in a mist net.
Shachar Alterman. Photo by: Noga Shanee/NPC
“As far as we know, this is only the fourth time this rare bird has ever been seen in the wild – and the first time it has been captured on video [see below],” says co-founder of Neotropical Primate Conservation, Noga Shanee, who also viewed the owlet. The researchers counted five individual owlets, making it the largest grouping of the birds ever recorded.
“It’s been one of the happiest moments in my life. We birders are so easy to please, just give us a new bird and we’re satisfied, but this one tops it all,” Alterman said, who spent a month volunteering with the Neotropical Primate Conservation organization. “No, but seriously, this is the first time that I feel that finding a new bird can help not only its natural habitat but a whole community. At least that’s what I pray will happen.”
The long whiskered owlet is classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. It is named for the long whiskers on the side of its head. Birdlife International has estimated the population to be somewhere between 250 and 1,000 individuals, but no one knows for certain.
Yellow tailed woolly monkey. Photo by: Noga Shanee/NPC.
The small patch of cloud forest in which the long whiskered owlets were discovered is also home to one of the world’s most endangered primates, the yellow tailed woolly monkey. The monkey, classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List, is one of the focal species for Neotropical Primate Conservation. Both the yellow tailed woolly monkey and the long whiskered owlet are threatened by deforestation of their small habitat from a growing population and extractive industries, such as mining, logging, cattle ranching, and coffee plantations. Neotropical Primate Conservation says there are less than 1,000 yellow tailed woolly monkeys left in the world.
“We are hoping that this new discovery of the Long-Whiskered Owlet’s population and the interest it will generate with birdwatchers and conservationist groups will help to further conservation efforts for this special forest,” says Shanee.
Long whiskered owlet. Photo by: Sachar Alterman / NPC.
Yellow tailed woolly monkey. Photo by: Noga Shanee/NPC.
The Npc research area at La Esperanza, Peru. Photo by: Noga Shanee/NPC.
World’s first video of long whiskered owlet.
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