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Fearful Owl Nesasio solomonensis
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This enigmatic species is classified as Vulnerable on the basis of a small population which is declining through habitat loss and is likely to be fragmented into very small subpopulations across three islands. However, its total population size, habitat requirements, and rate of decline are very poorly known.

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.

Nesasio solomensis Collar and Andrew (1988)

38 cm. Massive forest owl. Golden eyes framed by prominent creamy eyebrows, otherwise warm brown. Streaked dark underparts and barred dark upperparts. Similar spp. Solomons Islands Hawk-owl Ninox jacquinoti is much smaller (25-30 cm) with plainer facial mask, dark eyes and faintly patterned underparts. Voice Similar to clear human cry, increasing in volume and tone, given as series at 10 second intervals. Hints Rarely seen unless a local guide knows of regular roost or nest-sites.

Distribution and population
Nesasio solomonensis is endemic to Bougainville in Papua New Guinea and Choiseul and Santa Isabel in the Solomon Islands. There are also possible reports from Buka. It is presumed to be a species of low population density as it is rarely seen and no more than one bird has been heard calling from any location. In a well-studied area at Tirotonga on Isabel, three nests were about 2 km apart (G. Dutson pers. obs. 1998, M. Hafe verbally 1998), which would extrapolate to an approximate total population of c.3,000 pairs, but it appears to be unusually common in this area (G. Dutson pers. obs. 1998).

Population justification
The population is estimated to number at least 6,000 individuals, equivalent to 4,000 mature individuals (G. Dutson pers. obs. 1998, M. Hafe verbally 1998).

Trend justification
Forest loss and degradation are suspected to be causing this species to decline at a moderate rate.

This large owl is the top predator along with Sanford's Fish-eagle Haliaeetus sanfordi and is reported to feed mostly on northern common cuscus Phalanger orientalis (Diamond 1975a, Webb 1992). Phalangers were introduced to these islands in prehistoric times; presumably the owl previously fed on the giant arboreal rats which are now very rare across their range (Flannery 1995). Its distribution may now mirror that of P. orientalis which is heavily hunted for food in some districts (Webb 1992). All records are from old-growth lowland and hill forest, usually in primary forest but also in adjacent secondary forest and forest edge to at least 2,000 m (Gardner 1987, Webb 1992, G. Dutson pers. obs. 1998, Dutson 2011). Three nests on Isabel were on ephiphyte-covered branches of huge fig trees, one was in primary forest, the other two in forest edge close to many gardens (Webb in litt. 1996, G. Dutson pers. obs. 1998).

This species is threatened by large-scale logging and deforestation in the lowlands, which has increased in intensity in recent years (G. Dutson in litt. 2007). It may also be less common in areas where rural communities over-hunt prey species P. orientalis (Dutson 2011).

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. No conservation measures known.Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey to determine population densities in primary and logged forest, hunted and unhunted areas and at various altitudes. Monitor population trends around Tirotonga. Research diet and breeding success at Tirotonga. Lobby for tighter controls of commercial logging, especially on Choiseul. Discuss possibilities of large-scale community-based conservation areas on all three islands. Promote this species as a figurehead species for community-based conservation and ecotourism initiatives.

Diamond, J. 1975. Distributional ecology and habits of some Bougainville birds (Solomon Islands). Condor 77: 14-23.

Dutson, G. 2011. Birds of Melanesia: Bismarcks, Solomons, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. Christopher Helm, London.

Flannery, T. 1995. Mammals of the south-west Pacific and Moluccan Islands. Reed Books, Chatswood, Australia.

Gardner, N. 1987. Some interesting observations from Bougainville and West New Britain. Muruk 2(1): 38-39.

Webb, H. P. 1992. Field observations of the birds of Santa Isabel, Solomon Islands. Emu 92: 52-57.

Further web sources of information
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
Derhé, M., Dutson, G., Mahood, S., O'Brien, A., Stattersfield, A.

Dutson, G., Hafe, M., Webb, H.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Nesasio solomonensis. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016.

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 Strigidae (Typical Owls)
Species name author (Hartert, 1901)
Population size 4000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 13,200 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species