Monday, 6 October 2008

House guests

Indian Scops Owls
I found this pair of roosting Indian Scops Owls (Collard Scops Owl for some) in the Deep South, Sri Lanka during the photography tour that I led in August. They used to roost inside a tree hole in a home garden. However, as of recently, they have checked into more cozy indoors in search of better amenities.

This species of Owl was originally collected by Joan Gideon Loten (15 May, 1710–25 February, 1789) who was the Dutch Govenor of the martime provinces of Lanka from 10 Sep, 1752 to 17 March, 1757, upon whose collections, the foundation of Sri Lankan Ornithology was built.

Govenor Loten collected a large number of birds and natural history, and noted their weights, dimensions, and Sinhala names. He then got a local artist with European descent named, Pieter Cornelis de Bevere to illustrate his collections. Following his term, Loten retired to England in 1758, and corresponded with some of the well-known naturalists in England and beyond. This Owl was described by one such naturalist, Thomas Pennant in Indian Zoology in 1769.

The species etymology: bakkamoena is interesting, as it in Sinhala it means owl. However, the latter is commonly used for somewhat larger ones like the Brown Fish Owl; the smaller owls such as Indian Scops Owl are loosly referred in Sinhala as bassa nowadays. However, the former appears to be the name that the locals perhaps have communicated to Loten; thus it had beem used as its species name in the Latin binomial given by Pennant. In the Sinhalese pronounciation, the 'moen'of the latinized species name is pronounced as 'moon'.

Related posts for this tour:
Roosing Indian Scosp Owls in my home garden.
Pure Gold!
Coastal Pennant bagged!


spookydragonfly said...

Interesting post, Amila, I always learn something new when I come to visit. You must have great fun on your photography tours. Have a good day!

Tabib said...

Very good pic and story as always.
I haven't got any good pic of an owl yet.

Gallicissa said...

Thanks Spookydragonfly.
Glad you liked this post. Yes we had a load of goodies on my last one and I am blogging the highlights one by one.

Thanks Tabib. I think finding a day roost will be helpful in getting your first Owl photo.

Sasani said...

ooh that's sweet!
I always like it when unexpected guests pay visits, specially the non-human kind.

Gallicissa said...

My mother says that it is moosalai to have them inside a house, Sasani. But I disagree.

These have become remarkably trusting.

mboi said...

if it was collected from sri lanka, why was it called the 'indian' scops owl. it's a bit unfair how a lot of subcontinental species have that in front of when they r also found outside of india.

Gallicissa said...

Hi Mboi,

There have been significant changes to the common and scientific names of this owl since its description - in some cases based on how this species is defined taxonomically.

Anyways, it is sufficient to say that 'Indian Scops Owl'is what we have ended up right now after all these changes!

Most of the fauna and flora that ended up in the museums/collections in the west in the good old days were loosely tagged as far as the country/locality details were concerned. (Even the great Charles Darwin didn't tag those Finches by specific island names when he went island hopping in the Galapagos but his servant did!!)

However, in the case of this Owl, precise country details were communicated to Pennant. This is further evident from one of the common English names given for it by him - 'Ceylon Hawk Owl'

So it actually had borne the country name as a prefix in its name at the start before 'changes took place' subsequently.

p.s. This 'historical injustice' (*famous words*) of depriving our country prefix in a name of an Owl discovered from our homeland was rectified with the discovery of a new Scops Owl in Sri Lanka in 2001 by Deepal Warakagoda, which was apty christened 'Serendib Scops Owl' after the 14th century country name of Sri Lanka used by the Arabs.

mboi said...

lol thanks for lengthy reply mate. i'm always a bit peeved reading about wildlife i see in sl with the 'indian' prefix in their name. know why they went to calling it indian scops owl from ceylon hawk owl? is it because it isnt a hawk owl and they changed the locality prefix when they decided to change to the current name? i guess a more correct name would be south asian scops owl, but that's too long.

Gallicissa said...

Hi Mboi, This is a long story but very quickly: this sort of thing often happens when the species/populations are taxonomically redefined time to time.

If you are really interested, I will explain the full story behind this if you buy me a drink!

Drop me a line to gallicissa AT gmail DOT com.

Pseudothemis zonata said...

How are you?
It is a splendid photograph and sentence.
There was not spare time because I arranged the photograph of the dragonfly which I took. I finished upload until September. I start the upload of the photograph of the last year if I settle a share in October.

Susan Gets Native said...

So, Amila, if I ever get to your side of the world and we are out birding, if I see a big owl I should whisper "some sort of bakkamoena right there!" and if it's a small owl, I should whisper, "cute little bassa at 3 o'clock" ?

I love how owls around the world, no matter how long they have been separated historically, still look like their type. Your Indian Scops could be Eastern Screech owls here. All the Bubo owls look very similar. And there's that Malay Eagle Owl who looks very much like Yoda.
: )

Gallicissa said...

Thanks, PZ,
I too have been busy the last week.I will drop by to see them soon.

Hi Susan,
That is right, and the locals will take you seriously!

Like the Malayan one you referred, we too have one looking like Yoda here named Forest Eagle Owl Bubo nipalensis (species name suggesting: 'coming from Nepal'), which is a very high-profile bird here. I am yet to photograph it as it is elusive.

flowergirl said...

Now I know who Loten was! I was a bit intrigued by Loten of the Loten's sunbird fame.

Thanks for sharing!

Owlman said...

Hi Amila,

Great photo and interesting post. Naturally I am a sucker for owls so if you want hits from my side, just add the word owl in the title ;-) I was busy reading your blog and it took me a few minutes to realize that Enya was playing in the background - lol. Enya is so super relaxing that it becomes part of your background sound. In this case a very relaxing background sound. Thanks for chilling me out!

Gallicissa said...

Hi flowergirl,
In addtion to Loten's Sunbird, he also discovered the Purple-rumped Sunbird and many more!

p.s. 'girl nature blogger' remains is an undiscovered species here. I am glad you gave a shout from across the palk strait.

Gallicissa said...

Hi Owlman,
Thanks! Good to hear from you.

I will keep in mind that important tip to increase your traffic!

Glad you liked the background music. Thanks for that feedback.

Larry said...

Hi Amila,
Super shots of those little guys. I love Owls and Enya too!

Gallicissa said...

Hi Larry,
Thanks! This particular house was under construction and was unoccupied by its real human owners. It is normal for a lot of the Sri Lankans to complete their houses in stages - as and when the finances are favourable.

These new tennents obviously had taken advantage of this passage of time to help themselves for their housing needs! or should that read 'pressing' housing needs?

Larry said...

Nice photo of te owls and thanks for the informational background.-I've never seen owlsinside a building before unless someone is doing a nature show.

Gallicissa said...

Hi Larry,
I have been seeing them at this site since 2004 but this was the first occassion of seeing them in this unusual roost.

Beej said...

Wonderful blog... it is a revelation for me who lives a few latitudes up the subcontinent. I might be planning a trip to the island some time next year. May I contact you?
- Beej

Gallicissa said...

Hi Beej,
Thanks a lot!
Good to hear from the neighbourhood.

I'd be pleased to help you with your travel plans and guide you around. You can reach me via gallicissa AT gmail DOT com.

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