Giant Scops-owl Otus gurneyi


Justification of Red List Category
This owl has a small population which is undergoing a rapid decline and severe fragmentation as a result of extensive deforestation. It therefore qualifies as Vulnerable.

Population justification
The population size is preliminarily estimated to fall into the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals. This equates to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
Dinagat has been almost totally deforested and rates of deforestation on Samar and Mindanao have been rapid, with virtually all remaining forest leased to logging or mining concessions. Hence, the species is suspected to be declining rapidly.

Distribution and population

Otus gurneyi is endemic to the Philippines, where it is known from Dinagat, Siargao, Samar (where its presence was confirmed when observed being carried by a hunter [Allen and Collar 2013]) and Mindanao. The recent confirmation that it occurs on Samar also raises the possibility that it may occur on Leyte too (T. Warburton in litt. 2016), although both islands were badly hit by Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, and there have been no further possible sightings there (T. Warburton in litt. 2013). It has a relatively widespread distribution on Mindanao, where it has been discovered at eight new sites since 1990. However, its status is uncertain and, although it is likely to be under-recorded, it is considered to be probably uncommon at best.


It inhabits primary, secondary and selectively logged dipterocarp forests, primarily in the lowlands up to 670 m, with occasional records up to 1,300 m, including in mossy forest.


Its entire range has suffered extensive lowland deforestation. In 1988, forest cover had been reduced to an estimated 29% on Mindanao and in 1992 no more than 724 km2 of closed-canopy forest remained on Samar, with this island also being badly hit by Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 (T. Warburton in litt. 2016). The remaining forest is now likely less than this, with most remaining lowland forest tracts leased to logging concessions and mining applications. Dinagat has been almost entirely deforested as a result of illegal logging and chromite surface-mining.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I and II. It occurs in several protected areas, including Mt Apo and Mt Kitanglad Natural Parks and Siargao Island. There are older records from Mt Hilong-hilong Watershed Reserve and Mt Matutum Forest Reserve, which has been proposed as a national park. In the 1990s, it featured on a bilingual environmental awareness poster in the Only in the Philippines series.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct nocturnal surveys, using voice playback, to establish presence/absence in poorly surveyed areas of Mindanao (e.g. Mts Three Kings, Diwata and Dapiak) and Samar. Conduct more intensive fieldwork to assess abundance, elevational range and habitat requirements at key sites. Promote improved protection of remaining forest at the sites listed above and campaign for a protected area in south Mindanao to encompass the cluster of sites with recent records.


30 cm. Medium-sized owl with well-developed ear-tufts. Dark eyes. Rufescent facial disc outlined in black, conspicuous white eyebrows. Rufescent-brown crown and upperparts with darker shaft streaks, barred flight feathers and pale line on scapulars. Whitish underparts, washed rufous with bold black streaks. Similar spp. Larger than all sympatric Otus species, all of which lack such bold underpart streaking. Voice Loud wuaah repeated every 10-20 seconds in series of 5-10 calls.


Text account compilers
Davidson, P., Benstead, P., Derhé, M., Peet, N., Lowen, J., Westrip, J., Bird, J.

Warburton, T., Collar, N.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Otus gurneyi. Downloaded from on 07/08/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 07/08/2022.