Photo by Al Jabal Al Akhdar / Dutch Birding

Hoot leads scientist to new species of owl

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A British ornithologist recently discovered a new species of owl while on a research expedition in Oman.

The newly discovered bird, which is slightly larger than a tawny owl, has been dubbed the Omani owl.

Magnus Robb first spotted—or rather, first heard—the owl back in March when he was in the Middle Eastern country researching a new species. Robb, who moonlights as a sound recordist and author, was recording the Arabian owl when he detected a faint owl-like hooting in the distance, a rhythm he says he’d never heard before.

He and a colleague tried to find the unknown bird the next night, but alas the hooting creature remained a mystery.

A month later, Robb returned to the cliffs of Oman accompanied by colleague Arnoud B van den Berg.

As Robb told The Independent, locating the bird was not an easy task: “The owl inhabits vertical terrain and its voice is difficult to hear … What a relief to actually glimpse it perched on a rock, confirming that this was indeed an owl and looked nothing like we had seen before.”

The quiet, elusive bird was finally recognized as a new owl for science, and the first bird species to be discovered in Arabia in 77 years, in the latest issue of the ornithological journal Dutch Birding.

Robb and his team made several follow-up trips to Oman to gather photos and sound recordings. Robb contributes to Sound Approach, an international project that catalogues bird sounds.

Now that the bird is officially recognized, Robb wants to establish conservation projects to protect the new species.

To hear the new species yourself, check out Sound Approach’s website with Robb’s expedition diary entries.