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Grand Comoro Scops-owl Otus pauliani
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This species is classified as Critically Endangered since it has an extremely small range, occurring at only one location, an active volcano where clearance of forest for agriculture by the island's large and increasing human population is causing a continuing decline in the area of suitable habitat, and thus its extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, and population.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

20-22 cm. Small owl. Only one colour form: greyish-brown, heavily barred, streaked and vermiculated. Bright yellow eyes. Voice Whistled toot given at one-second intervals.

Distribution and population
Otus pauliani is found only on Mt Karthala, an active volcano on Grand Comoro (= Ngazidja), in the Comoro Islands.

Population justification
In November 1989, studies revealed its presence on the northern, western and southern flanks of the volcano where about 100 km2 of suitable habitat exists, and the population may prove to be over 1,000 pairs (Herremans et al. 1991a). In September 2005, the species was found to be abundant on the south-eastern flanks of the Karthala, which may increase the population estimate. However, no formal revised estimate is available and the extent of suitable habitat will have been reduced since 1989. The estimate is thus retained at 2,000 individuals, roughly equivalent to at least 1,300 mature individuals.

Trend justification
This species's population is suspected to be declining at a rate of 1-19% over ten years, in line with habitat loss and degradation within its range.

This species occurs from 650 m upwards to the tree line (Louette et al. in prep.). It is territorial, occurring in primary, montane, evergreen forest, favouring areas with old hollow trees, but is also found in "pioneer forest"; (forest that grows on rocky soils [Louette et al. 1988, Louette et al. 1990]) and regenerating forest dominated by Psidium cattleianum (Louette et al. in prep.). It shows a preference for edge habitat: either edges along the upper limits of the forest where it is replaced by giant heath Philippia, edges along old lava-flows, or edges of open areas within the forest itself (Louette et al. 1988). Its feeding and breeding ecology are unknown.

Since 1983 intact forest may have declined by over 25% as agriculture, on all but the poorest soils, has advanced steadily up the slopes of Mt Karthala toward the habitat of O. pauliani (Safford 2001). There is large clearance for road construction on the western side above Mvouni, relatively intensive logging for plank production using chainsaws in the south, above Kourani, and cattle grazing on the Phillipia heaths in the highlands (K. Green in litt. 2012). Secondary forest in the agricultural belt on the mountain is dominated by exotic plants, particularly strawberry guava Psidium cattleianum (Safford 2001), which could spread into and degrade remaining native forest. Commercial logging occurs in a 50 km2 concession on the south-western slopes (Safford 2001). Pioneer forest, although unsuitable for agriculture and of little value for logging, is susceptible to fire and may be burnt to provide grassland for cattle (Louette et al. 1990). Grazing is increasing - even at high altitudes - and could prohibit forest regeneration (Louette and Stevens 1992, Louette et al. 1988). Introduced rats and Common Myna Acridotheres tristis may act as competitors or nest predators (Safford 2001). If plans to build a road to Mt Karthala's crater are resurrected, exploitation and fragmentation of the forest, and the spread of exotic species, could be accelerated (Safford 2001).

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. A protected area (national park, biosphere reserve or resource management area) on Mt Karthala has been suggested, but has not yet materialised (Louette and Stevens 1992, Safford 2001). Protected area planning was underway for the Karthala forests in 2012 (K. Green in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Research the ecology of this species to aid conservation plans. Create a protected area on Mt Karthala to encompass the remaining native forest, and develop a land-use strategy (Louette and Stevens 1992, Safford 2001). Encourage locally-organised ecotourism as an alternative source of income for inhabitants of the Mt Karthala area (Safford 2001). Develop an environmental education programme on the island (Louette and Stevens 1992).

Herremans, M.; Louette, M.; Stevens, J. 1991. Conservation status and vocal and morphological description of the Grand Comoro Scops Owl Otus pauliani Benson 1960. Bird Conservation International 1: 123-133.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Louette, M.; Herremans, M.; Stevens, J.; Vangeluwe, D.; Soilih, A. 1990. Red Data Bird: Grand Comoro Scops Owl. World Birdwatch 12(1-2): 13.

Louette, M.; Stevens, J. 1992. Conserving the endemic birds on the Comoro Islands, 1: general considerations on survival prospects. Bird Conservation International 2: 61-80.

Louette, M.; Stevens, J.; Bijnens, L.; Janssens, L. 1988. Survey of the endemic avifauna of the Comoro Islands. International Council for Bird Preservation, Cambridge, U.K.

Safford, R. J. 2001. Comoros. In: Fishpool, L.D.C.; Evans, M.I. (ed.), Important Bird Areas in Africa and associated islands: Priority sites for conservation, pp. 185-190. Pisces Publications and BirdLife International (BirdLife Conservation Series No.11), Newbury and Cambridge, UK.

Further web sources of information
Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) species/site profile. This species has been identified as an AZE trigger due to its IUCN Red List status and limited range.

Click here for more information about the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Bird, J., Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Pilgrim, J., Shutes, S., Symes, A., Warren, B. & Ashpole, J

Louette, M., Marsh, C. & Green, K.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Otus pauliani. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Critically Endangered
Family Strigidae (Typical Owls)
Species name author (Benson, 1960)
Population size 1300 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 99 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species