Two new species of tiny screech owls from the Amazon and Atlantic rainforests in Brazil have been described by science. “They’re cute little owls, probably five or six inches long [13-15 centimeters], with tufts of feathers on their heads,” said John Bates, curator of birds at the Field Museum in Chicago and one of the researchers who described the new species in the journal Zootaxa. “Some are brown, some are gray, and some are in between.” The newly described Alagoas screech owl (Megascops alagoensis) from Brazil’s Atlantic forest is thought to be critically endangered. Image by Gustavo Malacco. The discovery was the result of several years of work in forests, natural history collections, and the laboratory, analyzing the black-capped/tawny-bellied screech owl complex (Megascops atricapilla – M. watsonii), a group of owls with an uncertain number of species. Altogether, the researchers analyzed 252 owl specimens, 83 tape recordings of calls, and 49 genetic samples. “To draw the birds out, we used tape recordings,” Bates said. “We’d record their calls and then play them back. The owls are territorial, and when they heard the recordings, they came out to defend their territory.” By closely examining the appearance, calls and DNA of the screech owls, the scientists determined that there were enough differences to classify two new species. One of the newly described species, the Xingu screech owl (Megascops stangiae)  was named in honor of the late activist Sister Dorothy Mae Stang. Image by Kleiton Silva. The new screech owls have been named…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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