Nicobar scops owl

   ›      ›   Nicobar scops owl - Otus alius.

The Nicobar scops owl (Otus alius) belongs to the family of typical owls, Strigidae.

These owl species are endemic to Nicobar Islands, India. The holotype of the Nicobar scops owl was collected by Humayun Abdulali in 1966. The scops owl was recognized as a distinct species and named as Otus alius after Humayun Abdulali by the well-known ornithologist Pamela C. Rasmussen in 1998. This scops owl is a monotypic species.

Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of Nicobar Scops Owl Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

Nicobar scops owl - Overview

  • Scientific name: Otus alius
  • Species author: Rasmussen, 1998
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Otus alius Rasmussen, 1998
  • Family: Strigidae › Strigiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Nicobar scops owl, Chinese: 尼科巴角鸮, French: Petit-duc de Nicobar, German: Nikobaren-Zwergohreule, Spanish: Autillo de Nicobar, Russian: Никобарская совка, Indonesian: Celepuk Nicobar
  • Other names: Nicobar Scops-Owl
  • Distribution: Endemic to Nicobar Islands, India
  • Diet and feeding habits: spider, beetle, lizard
  • IUCN status listing: Data Deficient (DD)
The scops owl is closely related Sulawesi scops owl (Otus manadensis).

Appearance, physical description and identification

The Nicobar scops owl (Otus alius) is a medium-sized scops owl with overall brown plumage and fine barring.
The ear tufts of these scops owl species are of medium length and rounded with broad feather tips. There is even, fine barring on the ear tufts. The facial disc is lightly barred at its lower edge and is slightly paler than rest of plumage. There is diffuse dark bordering to the facial disk. The white, rounded scapular spots are bordered by broad black bands. The upper breast is cinnamon with dark distal bars.

The undertail of Nicobar scops owl is mostly whitish, but the tip is closely barred rufous. The brownish bill is medium-sized. The rictal bristles are buff-yellow at the base and have black tips. The cere are yellowish brown. Tarsal feathers mostly cinnamon and much of tarsus is bare. The toes and claws are large. The toes are yellowish brown.

The female scope owl is much similar to the holotype male owl. It is slightly larger than the male. The markings are bold and darker and the underparts are more whitish. The facial disc is slightly darker than the male. The call of the female is a steady moaning ""ooo-m" sound.

No authentic Image is available yet.

Origin, geographical range and distribution

In the year 1966 (3 March), an undescribed form of scops-owl was collected near sea level at Campbell Bay on Greater Nicobar by Humayun Abdulali.

In the year 1977, a second specimen was collected by Abdulali in the same location. These specimens were considered as subspecies of Sulawesi scops owl (Otus manadensis).

In late 1996, P. C. Rasmussen examined both the specimens available at Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS). She confirmed that the specimens under consideration were morphologically distinct in a number of characters from the species Otus manadensis. The Otus species was recognized as a distinct species and named as Otus alius after Humayun Abdulali, a well-known ornithologist and cousin of Salim Ali ("birdman of India").

One more Nicobar scops owl was trapped and photographed in March 2003 on Teressa Island (P. Rasmussen in litt. 2005), in the Nicobar Islands (ref: There is possibility of the occurrence of Nicobar scops owl in Little Nicobar. The islands further north have been surveyed without evidence of its occurrence. The effect of the devastating 2004 tsunami on these scops owls is not known.

Ecosystem and habitat

These scope owl species have high forest dependence. They inhabit tropical moist lowland forest ecosystems. These scops owl species inhabit tropical coastal forests, subtropical moist lowland and tropical moist lowland.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of these Nicobar scops owl species appears to be mostly insects and lizards. From the gut analysis of the collected owl specimens it is inferred that insects like beetles and spiders may be their primary food. They also feed on reptiles like lizards.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these Nicobar scops owl species appears to be during March and May as inferred from the stage of the gonadal development of the holotype and paratype.

Migration and movement patterns

These Nicobar scope owls are stationary birds.
Post breeding, the juveniles may disperse and establish in new locations. They may also make local movements for feeding and breeding in their range.

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the Nicobar scops owl (Otus alius) is not known. The overall population size of these species is considered to be stable in the absence of any data input. The generation length is assumed to be 3.7 years. Their distribution size is about 1,200

It is not known whether these owl species are approaching the thresholds for being Vulnerable under the range size criterion, under the population trend criterion and under the population size criterion.

The intensification of agriculture and aquaculture, construction activities and laying of roads and railroads are the threats that may endanger the survival of these owl species.

IUCN and CITES status

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the owl species and has listed it as "Data Deficient". CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) has listed these Nicobar scops owl species in Appendix II.
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Otus alius
Species:O. alius
Binomial name:Otus alius
IUCN status listing:Data Deficient (DD)
Popular posts in Birds of India

Reference: Rasmussen, P.C. (1998). "A new Scops-owl from Great Nicobar Island". Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club. 118 (3): 141–153
Current topic in Birds of India: Nicobar scops owl - Otus alius.

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