Justification of Red List Category
This scops-owl has a very small range and population size, occurring on only one island, though new information suggests that the species may be much more widespread on Moheli than previously thought. There has been a continuing decline in the area and quality of habitat, from which it is suspected that there has been a continuing decline in its extent of occurrence, area of occupancy and the number of mature individuals. Therefore, the species is now listed as Endangered.
It is relatively abundant - its density has been estimated at one individual/5 ha of near-primary forest (c. 10 km2) and one individual per 10 ha of degraded forest, giving a total population in the order of 400 individuals (Lafontaine and Moulaert 1998, 1999), roughly equivalent to 260 mature individuals. However, given new information that suggests the species is more widespread than previously thought, further work is needed to assess the population size.
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction.
This species is endemic to Mohéli in the Comoro Islands. The species is now thought to be widespread on Mohéli, possibly occurring down to sea level if there are trees (R. Young verbally to R. Safford in litt. 2015). It is thought to be declining due to habitat destruction (R. Safford in litt. 1999).
The species was previously thought to be only found in dense, humid forest, which remains on the central mountain peak and its upper slopes (Lafontaine and Moulaert 1998). However the species was recently found to possibly occur down to sea level if there are trees (R. Young verbally to R. Safford in litt. 2015). It is common in intact forest, but less so in forest under-planted for agriculture (Safford 2001). It has been sighted in degraded forest, however it is not known whether this habitat can support a breeding population (C. Marsh in litt. 2009).
By 1995, intact, dense, humid forest remained on only 5% of the island, owing primarily to conversion for subsistence agriculture (Lafontaine and Moulaert 1998, 1999), underplanting, clear-felling and cultivation, and abandonment of sparsely vegetated land, which is highly susceptible to erosion and landslides (Safford 2001). Invasive exotic plant species, such as jamrosa Syzygium jambos, Lantana camara and Clidemia hirta, are abundant in the forest and are degrading the native habitat (Safford 2001). Hunting probably affects this species (Safford 2001). Introduced species including rats and Common Mynas, Acridotheres tristis, are common, and may compete with O. moheliensis for food or predate its nests (Safford 2001). Having a distribution that is close to the maximum altitude within its range, this species is potentially susceptible to climate change (BirdLife International unpublished data).
Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. The highlands of the island are currently unprotected, but proposals have been made to protect them by extending the Réserve Marine de Nioumachoua (Safford 2001). The Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation planned to carry out a feasibility study to expand its forest management project from Anjouan to Mohéli (H. Doulton in litt. 2010).
Conservation Actions Proposed
Carry out surveys to assess the current population size. Research the ecology of this species, to aid conservation plans. Create a reserve in the interior of the island to protect suitable habitat (Safford 2001). Develop an environmental education programme to increase local awareness.
20-22 cm. Small owl. Two colour forms. Rufous form is bright orangey-buff with unusually reduced barring and streaks. Brown morph is darker and heavily streaked and vermiculated. Voice Described as hissing whistles and screeches.
Text account compilers
Mahood, S., Ashpole, J, Pilgrim, J., Warren, B., Westrip, J., Ekstrom, J., Bird, J., Benstead, P., Shutes, S., Symes, A., Butchart, S.
Young, R., Safford, R., Doulton, H., Marsh, C., Louette, M.
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Otus moheliensis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 06/12/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 06/12/2021.