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Congo Bay-owl Phodilus prigoginei
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This poorly-known species is undoubtedly very rare and has a very small known range. It would appear to have very specific habitat requirements and, while a large area of its habitat remains, forest clearance and degradation are likely to be causing declines in range and numbers. It therefore qualifies as Endangered.

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.

23-29 cm. Extremely beautiful, rich chestnut-brown owl. Only female ever described. Rusty-brown above with paler, orangey underparts. Compact and oval facial disc with dark eyes. Voice Possibly long, mournful whistles (but requires confirmation).

Distribution and population
Phodilus prigoginei had not been recorded since the type-specimen was collected in 1951 at Muusi, in the Itombwe Mountains, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), until its rediscovery in 1996, when a female was mist-netted in the extreme south-east corner of Itombwe Forest (Butynski et al. 1997; Omari et al. 1999). This rediscovery extends the species's known range southwards by c.95 km and lowers its altitudinal range by approximately 600 m (Butynski et al. 1997). Itombwe is not the only forest in central Africa with a large area of highland forest/grassland habitat, and it is possible the species occurs elsewhere, especially in Nyungwe Forest (F. Dowsett-Lemaire in litt. 1999). There is a possible sighting in Burundi from 1974 and, in 1990, calls of an unidentified owl were tape-recorded in Nyungwe Forest, Rwanda (Dowsett-Lemaire 1990). Recent surveys of Kibira and Mt Kabogo, in which this species was targeted, were unsuccessful (A. Plumptre in litt. 2007).

Population justification
The population is estimated at 9,360 individuals (10 individuals/km2 x 936 km2 [20% EOO]), i.e. within the range 2,500-9,999, and likely to be at lower end due to specific habitat requirements. This range equates to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals. Density from estimate for congeneric Oriental Bay Owl P. badius; see BirdLife Population Density Spreadsheet.

Trend justification
This species is suspected to be in decline owing to the continuing destruction and degradation of its habitat. The likely rate of decline, however, has not been estimated.

The record in 1951 was at 2,430 m, in a grass clearing. The 1996 rediscovery was in montane gallery forest at 1,830 m, where the slopes are covered with grass and bush and the lower slopes and valleys with montane forest (Butynski et al. 1997). The species would appear to require a mosaic of grassland and either montane or bamboo forest, and was netted in a slightly disturbed area, indicating that it may tolerate some human activity (Butynski et al. 1997).

Forest clearance for smallholder agriculture is a serious threat in Itombwe, where a maize blight since the early 1990s has reduced yields and forced farmers to clear forest for new farms (Omari et al. 1999). Gallery forest on the central savanna plateau, including the locality where the species was rediscovered, is being degraded as a result (Omari et al. 1999). Clearance of forest for livestock-grazing, particularly at higher altitudes, is also a threat (Omari et al. 1999).

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. Itombwe Forest has recently been gazetted as a community reserve, although the boundaries still need to be defined (A. Plumptre in litt. 2007). Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys to determine the range and population of the species (Butynski et al. 1997). Research its ecology (Butynski et al. 1997). Facilitate conservation action in collaboration with traditional authorities to limit further habitat degradation (Omari et al. 1999).

Butynski, T. M.; Agenonga, U.; Ndera, B.; Hart, J. F. 1997. Rediscovery of the Congo Bay (Itombwe) Owl Phodilus prigoginei. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 4(1): 32-35.

Collar, N. J.; Stuart, S. N. 1985. Threatened birds of Africa and related islands: the ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book. International Council for Bird Preservation, and International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Cambridge, U.K.

Dowsett-Lemaire, F. 1990. Eco-ethology, distribution and status of Nyungwe Forest birds, Rwanda. In: Dowsett, R.J. (ed.), Enquête faunistique et floristique dans la Forêt de Nyungwe, Rwanda, pp. 31-85. Tauraco Press, Ely, U.K.

Omari, I.; Hart, J. A.; Butynski, T. M.; Birnashirwa, N. R.; Upoki, A.; M'Keyo, Y.; Bengana, F.; Bashonga, M.; Baguruburnwe, N. 1999. The Itombwe Massif, Democratic Republic of Congo: biological surveys and conservation, with an emphasis on Grauer's gorilla and birds endemic to the Albertine Rift. Oryx 33: 301-322.

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
Ekstrom, J., Shutes, S., Symes, A., Taylor, J.

Dowsett-Lemaire, F., Plumptre, A.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Taylor, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Phodilus prigoginei. 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.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Congo bay-owl (Phodilus prigoginei) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Endangered
Family Tytonidae (Barn-owls)
Species name author Schouteden, 1952
Population size 2500-9999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 4,700 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species