New Caledonian Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles savesi


Justification of Red List Category
Known only from two specimens, one sighting in the 1990s and only three other reports, this very poorly known species is classified as Critically Endangered on the basis of a tiny known population which is presumed to be undergoing a continuing decline.

Population justification
The population is assumed to be tiny (fewer than 50 individuals and mature individuals), with just a single possible record (in 1998) since 1960.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to predation by invasive species.

Distribution and population

Aegotheles savesi is endemic to New Caledonia (to France). It is known from a specimen collected in 1880 at Païta, near Nouméa (Layard and Layard 1881), a second specimen dated 1915 recently discovered in an Italian museum (C. Violani in litt. 2000), a possible record from the island of Maré (Macmillan 1939), one found dead (but not retained) in the Tchamba valley in the 1950s (Ekstrom et al. 2000), one shot close to Païta in 1960 (Hannecart and Létocart 1983, Ekstrom et al. 2000) and a possible sighting in 1998 in the Rivière Ni valley (Ekstrom et al. 2000, Tobias and Ekstrom 2002, Ekstrom et al. 2002). Calls similar to those of the Australian A. cristatus were heard in 1996 and 1998. Given that local people do not know this distinctive species and that there have been no other records from recent extensive surveys, it must occur in very low numbers and/or be restricted to the most remote forest massifs such as Kouakoue (Ekstrom et al. 2000, Tobias and Ekstrom 2002).


The records are from Melaleuca savanna and humid forest. The 1998 sighting was of a single bird foraging for insects briefly at dusk, in evergreen riverine forest (Ekstrom et al. 2000, Tobias and Ekstrom 2002). Other owlet-nightjars Aegotheles spp. are territorial and vocal inhabitants of various wooded habitats (Tobias and Ekstrom 2002). They nest and roost in holes in trees and are largely sit-and-wait predators of small animals, foraging from perches or from the ground. A. savesi is larger and has much longer legs than congeners, which may indicate more terrestrial habits (Olson et al. 1987, J. Ekstrom in litt. 1999, Tobias and Ekstrom 2002).


There is no direct information on threats. However, the ecologically similar A. cristatus is believed to suffer high predation rates of both adults and nests (Brigham and Geiser 1997). It seems likely that A. savesi has declined through predation by introduced rats and possibly cats or habitat loss through fire, mining and logging.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The 1998 report was in the Reserve Speciale de Faune et de Flore de la Ni-Kouakoue. This area receives little conservation management but is very remote and hence affords a degree of protection. Between 2002 and 2007, c.500 person-days in the field yielded no sightings and between 2003 and 2006 120 local interviews received no credible reports.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct further intensive field surveys close to the 1998 sighting and on other ultrabasic massifs in the vicinity (Ekstrom et al. 2000, Tobias and Ekstrom 2002), provided these are cost effective and do not detract from the conservation of other threatened species. Publicise the search for this species amongst forest workers and villagers (Ekstrom et al. 2000, Tobias and Ekstrom 2002) within the "Wanted" campaign, to maximise efficiency of the unofficial observer network. Investigate feasibility and costs of rat control in the Ni-Kouakoue forest. Ensure better protected status for Ni-Kouakoue.


28cm. Large, dark owlet-nightjar. Plumage rather uniformly vermiculated grey-brown and black. Structurally distinct with short rounded wings, long, slightly rounded tail and relatively long, stout legs. Similar spp. Only confusable with White-throated Nightjar Eurostopodus mystacalis which has paler plumage on New Caledonia and typical nightjar shape and habits. Voice Unknown. Other congeners have various churring and whistling calls. Hints Check all unknown nocturnal calls, nest-holes and road casualties. Probably sits upright across branches or on the ground, sallying on direct or fluttering flight.


Text account compilers
Bird, J., Butchart, S., Derhé, M., Ekstrom, J. & Symes, A.

Chartendrault, V., Ekstrom, J., Rouys, S., Spaggiari, J., Theuerkauf, J. & Violani, C.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Aegotheles savesi. Downloaded from on 26/10/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 26/10/2021.