Image: Thomas Dressler, 2008.
Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.
Rick Wright, Managing Director of WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, writes:
I’m at a loss. I know where this bird was photographed, and so I know what it has to be, but I fail miserably at the little test I like to set myself: could I identify this bird correctly if I discovered it thousands of miles out of range? Not hardly, as they say.
This is obviously a small eared owl, what in the Old World is called a scops-owl Otus and in the New World a screech-owl Megascops. (That latter genus name is a bit of an oxymoron, a “giant shrimp.”) Not that long ago, the scops-owls of Europe and Africa were easy: they were all simply Scops Owl, members of a widespread and common species, but careful study has revealed that the complex actually includes a number of bafflingly similar “cryptic” species, distinguishable only by voice and the biochemist. The silent bird in this photo, an African Scops-Owl, can probably not be told visually from its very close relative the Eurasian Scops-Owl, which overlaps with it in winter across a broad band of sub-Saharan Africa.
More and more such cryptic species are being discovered, and we’d better be prepared for it. Taxonomic splits are the wave of the future, a delight for the die-hard lister and a puzzle for the careful birder anywhere in the world.
Review all mystery birds to date.