Forest Owlet spotted in Western Ghats

The critically endangered Forest Owlet (Athene blewitti) spotted in Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary in Palghar District of Maharashtra.

Created On: Nov 29, 2014 11:11 ISTModified On: Nov 29, 2014 16:40 IST

Forest Owlet (Athene blewitti)The critically endangered Forest Owlet (Athene blewitti) was spotted in northern Western Ghats by naturalist Sunil Laad in October 2014. The owlet was spotted in Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary in Palghar District of Maharashtra. The bird is endemic to the Satpura mountain ranges in central India.

This time, the bird has been found in Tansa wildlife sanctuary about 250 km southwards of its earlier known range. The Tansa wildlife sanctuary near Mumbai is known to be an important bird habitat.

Reason for being in news
For 113 years, it was considered that the forest owlet has been extinct, until researchers rediscovered it in 1997 in Toranmal Reserve Forest in the Satpura ranges. It was rediscovered in 1997 by Pamela Rasmussen.

The bird is categorised as critically endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List.

About Forest Owlet (Athene blewitti or Heteroglaux blewitti)

The forest owlet is an owl that is endemic to the forests of central India and is on the verge of extinction. This species belongs to the typical owls’ family, Strigidae.

Distribution of Forest Owlet
These birds are mainly based in four localities two widely separated areas, north-western Maharashtra and south-east Madhya Pradesh/western Orissa.

This species has a tiny, severely fragmented population, known from fewer than 12 recent locations. Some locations include
• Melghat Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra – about 100 individuals have been seen
• Toranmal Reserve Forest
• Khaknar Reserve Forest
• Yawal Wildlife Sanctuary

Initially the species was discovered in 1872 (Chhattisgarh) which been encroached completely by agriculture. It was rediscovery in 1997 and since then, fieldwork has been conducted to study its status, ecology and threats.

Forest Owlet’s population is estimated to number 50-249 mature individuals based on the number of records from known sites. The species faces a number of threats which in combination are suspected to be causing a decline at a rate of 10-19 percent over ten years.

It appears to be a sedentary resident in open dry deciduous forest dominated by teak Tectona grandis, along with, a ground cover of weed like wild basil and grasses.

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