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Taliabu Masked-owl Tyto nigrobrunnea
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This inconspicuous and extremely poorly known forest owl has been downlisted to Vulnerable because although it is suspected to have a very small population of less than 1,000 mature individuals, it appears to tolerate substantial habitat degradation and is therefore no longer inferred to be undergoing continuing declines.

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.

31-32 cm. Medium-sized, forest-dwelling owl. Female has dark brown upperparts with lines of small white spots. Dark and unbarred wings, secondaries with whitish tips, brown tail with three dark bars. Golden-brown underparts, spotted and vermiculated black. Black iris. Male presumably similar but undescribed. Similar spp. Brown Hawk-owl Ninox scutulata is smaller with yellow irides, streaked underparts and barred tail. Voice a hissing sound typical of the genus (Rheindt 2010).

Distribution and population
This species is endemic to the Sula Islands, Maluku, Indonesia, where it is known from just one specimen (collected in 1938) and a handful of subsequent sight records, all from the largest island in the group, Taliabu (Davidson et al. 1991, Rheindt 2010). However, it appears to be well-known to villagers at Binadesa and recent records suggest it can occupy secondary growth and bamboo thickets in the vicinity of habitation. Evidence also suggests that it may occur within a broad elevational range (Rheindt 2010, C. Robson in litt. 2013). It is possible that future surveys will reveal its presence on the neighbouring island of Mangole and perhaps Sanana (Rheindt 2010). There is no information on its population size, but the paucity of records (even taking into account its inconspicuous nature and the fact that it could easily be overlooked) indicate that it could still be very scarce.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 250-999 mature individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated extent of occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 375-1,499 individuals in total, rounded here to 350-1,500 individuals.

Trend justification
This species was previously suspected to be in decline as a result of extensive logging and some clear-felling on the island of Taliabu, however its apparent tolerance of degraded habitat suggests it may not be undergoing significant declines,

Little is known of its ecology. The only specimen was collected in lowland forest, however, recent sightings have been made in heavily logged forest and dense secondary bamboo thickets suggesting that it can tolerance habitat degradation (Rheindt 2010). Unlike on other islands in the region, there is no open-country congener on Taliabu, which may have allowed it to adapt to disturbed habitats (Rheindt 2010). It apparently occurs within a broad elevational range (Rheindt 2010).

Large-scale logging of lowland forest has taken place, and some areas have been clear-felled for industrial timber production. Most of Taliabu's lowland forest, below 800 m, is designated for logging concessions. Selective logging has already produced a mosaic of different-aged forest stands, with few, if any, extensive tracts of primary lowland forest remaining, except perhaps in the central south-west of the island. The effects of habitat degradation on this species remain unknown, but in combination the processes driving forest loss are thought to represent considerable threats.

Conservation and Research Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. Present in Banggai and Sula Islands EBA (Bruce and Kirwan 2013). A seven week avifaunal survey was conducted on Taliabu in 1991. A strict nature reserve has been proposed for the island, but only c. 18% encompasses lowland forest, and it remains to be confirmed that this site is appropriate for the conservation of this rare owl.

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Conduct widespread searches for the species (including the neighbouring islands of Mangole and Sanana), questioning local people about its possible presence and clarifying its range, distribution, status and ecological requirements. Reassess its threat status and conservation needs, recommending further areas for protection where appropriate. Ensure effective management of any forthcoming protected area on Taliabu.

BirdLife International. 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Bruce, M.D. and Kirwan, G.M. 2013. Taliabu Masked-owl (Tyto nigrobrunnea). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. and de Juana, E. (eds), Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive, Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Davidson, P.; Stones, A.; Lucking, R.; Bean, N.; van Balen, B.; Raharjaningtrah, W.; Banjaransari, H. 1991. University of East Anglia Taliabu expedition 1991.

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

Rheindt, F. E. 2010. New biogeographic records for the avifauna of Taliabu (Sula Islands, Indonesia), with preliminary documentation of two previously undiscovered taxa. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 130(1): 33-51.

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)

Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).

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
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Davidson, P., Taylor, J., Tobias, J., Allinson, T & Ashpole, J

Rheindt, F. & Robson, C.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Tyto nigrobrunnea. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016.

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 Vulnerable
Family Tytonidae (Barn-owls)
Species name author Neumann, 1939
Population size 250-999 mature individuals
Population trend Unknown
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 2,900 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species