The Mysterious Rajah Scops Owl Rediscovered Again In Sabah After 125 Years

source: Andy Boyce/ Smithsonian Magazine

For the first time since its discovery 125 years ago, scientists managed to document the Bornean subspecies of Rajah scops owl (Otus brookii brookii) in the mountainous forests of Mount Kinabalu, Sabah.

The mysterious owl – named after James Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak – was first discovered in 1892 and disappeared before making a brief return in 2016.

The Wilson Journal of Ornithology published a study in April 2021 which confirms the find. The encounter lasted for two hours and the owl was not seen since then.

The Sumatran subspecies. source: Mongabay

The bird of prey is known for its orange eyes and ear tufts and can be found in forests of Sabah. Scientists think the rare sighting could be because of its low population density, although there is a lack of knowledge about the owl including its song and core habitat.

Its partner subspecies, the Otus brookii solokensis can be found in Sumatra, but scientists think this owl could be a separate species altogether.