I am a great owl lover. These elusive birds have held a special fascination for humans throughout the centuries. Countless lore, myths and superstitions are associated with owls, and it’s easy to see why. They appear mysteriously from the darkness. Legend endows them with supernatural knowledge, and their large eyes and bespectacled appearance enhances this belief. A group of owls is known as a parliament, a wisdom or a study. The Greeks for example, considered owls as a symbol of good fortune and associated them with Athene, the goddess of wisdom. However the Romans thought they were evil. They believed owls were omens of disaster. Their hoot was considered to be the call of death. Even today, the standard metaphor for danger in film is their eerie call, or the glimpse of an owl near the scene of the crime.
Several types of owl live here at Pilyara. I am often lulled to sleep by the rhythmic call of the little Southern Boobook. We have even spotted the rare and magnificent Powerful Owl. Everything to do with owls gives me a thrill. So imagine my delight to hear that a brand new species has been identified to the north of Australia, on the small island of Lombok, Indonesia.
This photo, taken by independent researcher Philippe Verbelen, shows a pair of Rinjani Scops owls. They were discovered by accident when scientists looking for another bird, noticed their distinct whistling song. The small owls, with brown and white feathers and big golden eyes, had been confused with a similar-looking species for more than a century. Their new English name comes from Mount Rinjani, Indonesia’s second-highest volcano that looms over Lombok.
We live in a time when the extinction rate is gathering frightening speed. The identification of this gorgeous little owl comes as a welcome contrast to so much tragic news. Long may the Rinjani Scops Owl prosper!