This species is classified as Critically Endangered because it has a small population which is likely to be declining owing to continuing habitat destruction and degradation in its small range. Its prospects are currently uncertain as statistics on forest loss on Anjouan are unreliable. However, recent evidence suggests that it can adapt to human-affected forest areas where large trees remain, and a recent study suggests that the population may be considerably larger than previously feared. Given this new information the species may warrant downlisting in the future.
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.
Otus rutilus (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) has been split into O. pembaensis following Fry et al. (1988), O. capnodes following Dowsett and Forbes-Watson (1993), and, more recently, into O. madagascariensis and O. mayottensis following Rasmussen et al. (2000) and O. rutilus (with species limits accordingly revised).
Distribution and population
20-22 cm. Small, eared, dark-coloured owl. Two colour forms; both are barred, streaked and vermiculated: one is dark ashy-brown and the other paler rufous-brown with pale grey facial disc bordered black. Both frequently seen together. Voice Distinct, drawn-out whistle, often repeated and separated by short interludes.
This species was rediscovered on Anjouan (= Ndzuani) in the Comoro Islands
in June 1992, after an absence of records dating back to 1886. At least several tens of pairs, probably 100-200 pairs, were estimated to survive in 1999 (R. Safford in litt.
, and although a survey in 1995 produced a maximum estimate of only 96 individuals (Moorcroft 1996)
, differences between these two estimates may be due to sampling techniques. Surveys in 2006 found the bird to be abundant in suitable habitat and encouragingly found individuals in degraded habitats down to 300 m, and it has also been sighted at sea level (H. Doulton in litt
. 2006, 2010, C. Marsh in litt
. 2007, 2009).
This survey estimated the population to be somewhere between the two previous estimates at 50-100 pairs (C. Marsh in litt
. 2007, 2009)
Surveys carried out in 2010-2011 suggested that the species may be frequent in degraded forest, with habitat modelling giving a potential range of 93.4 km2
. Density was estimated at 0.53 birds per hectare (0.44-0.63, 95% CI), meaning that the total population may be significantly higher than previously thought and possibly as high as 4,950 individuals (3,641-6,632, 95% CI), however further work is needed to confirm this (K. Green in litt.
2010, 2011, Lloyd 2010)
. Field surveys from May-July 2010 (dry season) and November 2010-April 2011 (wet season) estimated the population at 3,466 individuals (2,654-4,526, 95% CI) during the dry season and 5,464 individuals (4,232-7,054, 95% CI) in the wet season (Green et al
. 2015). Densities were estimated at 0.55 individuals ha-1
(0.42-0.72, 95% CI) and 0.87 individuals ha-1
(0.67-1.12, 95% CI) for the dry and wet seasons respectively.Population justification
The population has been estimated at 50-100 pairs (C. Marsh in litt. 2007, 2009), however surveys carried out in 2010-2011 suggested that the species may be more widespread, and frequent in degraded forest, with habitat modelling giving a potential range of 93.4 km2
. Density was estimated at 0.53 birds per hectare (0.44-0.63, 95% CI), meaning that the total population may be significantly higher than previously thought and possibly as high as 4,950 individuals (3,641-6,632, 95% CI) (K. Green in litt. 2010, 2011, Lloyd 2010). A recently published paper that collected data in 2010-2011 estimated the population at 3,466 individuals (2,654-4,526, 95% CI) during the dry season and 5,464 in the wet season (4,232-7,054, 95% CI) (Green et al
. 2015). The population is currently precautionarily maintained in the band 50-249 mature individuals. This equates to 75-374 individuals in total, rounded here to 70-400 individuals.Trend justification
It is suspected to be decreasing rapidly owing primarily to habitat clearance and perhaps also predation and competition from invasive species.Ecology
It survives in remaining fragments of native upland forest, degraded forest and plantations, and appears to be dependent on large trees with cavities for nesting and roosting, usually on steep slopes (Safford 1993)
. Surveys in 2010-2011 found the species to be commonest in native forest, with significantly lower densities in degraded forest and lower densities still in plantations, and it also occurs in agroforestry with natural or non-natural understorey vegetation (K. Green in litt.
2011, Green et al
. 2015). It has been recorded perching in thick cover, 3-15 m from the ground (Lewis 1996)
and roosting 3-4 m off the ground on the bottom branch of a tree fern (H. Doulton in litt
. 2006, 2010)
. Insects are believed to form at least part of its diet (Safford 1993)
. It is thought to breed between August and December, during the wet season (Green et al
Habitat clearance for agriculture, timber extraction and charcoal manufacture is ongoing (Lewis 1996, Safford 2001, K. Green in litt.
. Between 1990-2000 the country suffered from the fourth highest rate of deforestation in the world. Remaining habitat is becoming increasingly degraded through human disturbance and invasion by exotic plants such as Rubus rosifolius
and Lantana camara
(Safford 1993). Introduced Black Rat Rattus rattus
is abundant in the forest, and may predate nests (Safford 1993)
. The introduced Common Myna Acridotheres tristis
may compete for nest holes (Safford 1993, H. Doulton in litt
. 2006, 2010, C. Marsh in litt
. 2007, 2009)
. Severe cyclones are a regular threat to remaining forest fragments (Safford 2001)
. Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. Long-term, ongoing developments that will benefit wildlife in general include a family-planning programme, environmental education projects, and the formation of a non-governmental environmental organisation (Ulanga) (Safford 1993)
. The UNDP, in partnership with the government, planned to implement a large-scale reserve covering Mount Ntingrui from around 2009. The creation of a protected area network for the Comoros Islands is still ongoing, with the Moya Forest in addition to Mount Ntingrui proposed as potential areas for protection (Green et al
. 2015). A participatory conservation project has been ongoing on Anjouan since 2008 (H. Doulton in litt
. 2006, 2010,
K. Green in litt.
. Activities centre on improving livelihoods and agricultural productivity, helping communities to collectively manage their natural resources such as water, and monitoring biodiversity patterns across all three islands to help prioritise areas for wildlife protection. Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation's (BCSF) project in the Comoros, Engagement Communautaire pour le Developpement Durable (ECDD) is taking a community-led landscape management approach towards the protection of forest and biodiversity in the Moya Forest region of Anjouan. Actions include intensification of agricultural practices to reduce the demand for land, improving soil fertility through terracing and the integration of livestock management into agricultural practices, and the development of alternative revenue streams such as through market gardening (K. Green, H. Doulton and B. Daniel in litt.
2012). Research aiming to establish a long-term monitoring scheme and recommend conservation actions to assist the preservation of the species began in 2010 (K. Green in litt.
.Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue monitoring to confirm the population size, and carry out additional research on the ecology and behaviour of the species, including researching its requirements for food resources and nest sites, thus investigating why this species appears to be dependent on forested areas and has low presence in plantations. Although it has been found to be less dependent on pristine forest than previously feared, the species occurs at its highest densities in undisturbed forest, and conservation measures proposed should thus focus on the conservation of forest ecosystems, complemented with awareness raising for the species both nationally and internationally. Additional measures such as the provision of nest-boxes in secondary forest (Moorcroft 1996)
and establishing a captive population as insurance against extinction (Safford 1993)
may not be necessary if the species is confirmed to have a much larger population than was once suspected.
Green, K. 2010. Encouraging results from the first comprehensive survey of the Anjouan Scops-owl. BirdLife Africa Newsletter 13(2): 25.
Green, K.E., Daniel, B.M., Lloyd, S.P., Said, I., Houmadi, A., Salim, D.M., M'Madi, S., Doulton, H. and Young, R.P. 2015. Out of the darkness: the first comprehensive survey of the Critically Endangered Anjouan Scops Owl Otus capnodes. Bird Conservation International 25(3): 322-334.
IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 19 November 2015).
Lewis, A. 1996. In search of the Badanga. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 3(2): 131-132.
Lloyd, S. P. 2010. Habitat suitability modelling for the Anjouan Scops Owl, a cryptic unstudied species. MSc, Imperial College, London.
Moorcroft, D. 1996. Anjouan Expedition '95.
Safford, R. J. 1993. Rediscovery, taxonomy and conservation of the Anjouan Scops Owl Otus capnodes (Gurney, 1889). Bird Conservation International 3: 57-74.
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
Species Guardian Action Update
Text account compilers
Bird, J., Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Ekstrom, J., Pilgrim, J., Shutes, S., Symes, A., Warren, B. & Ashpole, J
Doulton, H., Green, K., Marsh, C., Safford, R. & Daniel, B.
IUCN Red List evaluators
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Otus capnodes. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 26/07/2016.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 26/07/2016.
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.