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Articles - Cyprus Scops Owl a potential split



The nominate form of Scops Owl passes through Cyprus on migration, but the prime habitat is already occupied by the sedentary endemic form. Photo: Álvaro Rodríguez Alberich (commons.wikimedia.org).
The nominate form of Scops Owl passes through Cyprus on migration, but the prime habitat is already occupied by the sedentary endemic form. Photo: Álvaro Rodríguez Alberich (commons.wikimedia.org).

David Callahan - Posted on 26 Apr 2016


The endemic subspecies of Scops Owl Otus scops found on Cyprus has long been suspected of being suitable for elevation to full species status. It is darker than other European forms, lacks a rufous morph and has a disyllabic call first thought to be call and response between two birds.

The Sound Approach team split the form as O cyprius in their recent book Undiscovered Owls, and after analysis of its mitochondrial DNA, its difference is confirmed, though its separation seems to be rather recent.

First given initial species status on discovery in 1801, it is largely sedentary and prevents other Scops forms from colonising even though they pass through Cyprus on migration. There are no records of interbreeding, suggesting that cyprius is a full species, as isolating mechanisms clearly exist to keep it distinct.

Reference
Flint, P, Whaley, D, Kirwan, G M, Charalambides, M, Schweizer, M, and Wink, M. 2015. Reprising the taxonomy of Cyprus Scops Owl Otus (scops) cyprius, a neglected island endemic. Zootaxa 4040: 301-316.

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