Muscat: A British ornithologist and his team have discovered a completely new species of owl while on a research expedition in the Sultanate.
The species, previously unknown to science, is slightly bigger than a tawny owl and has been named the Omani Owl.
After critical analysis, the experts concluded that this was indeed a new owl for science, and the first bird species to be discovered in the Arabia for the last 40 years. Details of its discovery were published in the ornithological journal Dutch Birding on Thursday.
It was first spotted in the Al Hajar Mountains in the month of March when sound-recordist and author, Magnus Robb, 43, formerly from Edinburgh, was studying another species.
Robb's work is part of an international project called the Sound Approach, which aims to catalogue bird sounds with a view to gain a better understanding of various species.
According to Robb, he and his team were recording the Arabian owl, which he knows well, when he noticed "faint owl-like hooting in the background with a rhythm I had never heard before."
The expert was so struck by the sound that he immediately phoned a colleague and said: "I think I've just discovered a new species of owl."
"My colleague Rene Pop and I tried in vain to find the mystery bird again the next night, but it was only on the last night of our trip that we heard it again," Robb said. "We had to leave for the airport with the unseen owl hooting up on a cliff," he added.
He returned a month later, accompanied by colleague Arnoud B van den Berg. "Tracking it down again wasn't easy. This owl inhabits vertical terrain and its voice is difficult to hear. Worse still, in April the bird was virtually silent. Eventually, however, we heard one. What a relief to actually glimpse it perched on a rock, confirming that this was indeed an owl and looked like nothing we had seen before," Robb said.
Over the course of the next few months, the team made two more research trips to look for new specimens, gather photographs and sound recordings, and observe the owls' behaviour.