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Eye on conservation: Protection added for Long-whiskered Owlet, one of the world’s rarest birds

Tiny, rare Long-whiskered Owlet is found only in wet elfin forest and tall forest in northern Peru. Photo courtesy of Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos (Ecoan).
Tiny, rare Long-whiskered Owlet is found only in wet elfin forest and tall forest in northern Peru. Photo courtesy of Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos (Ecoan).

Wispy face feathers give the Long-whiskered Owlet its name, and a diminutive stature distinguishes it as one of the world’s tiniest owls. It stands only about five inches tall.

The owlet also ranks among the rarest of all birds. It is found only in northern Peru, and it was not discovered until 1976. Then it was not seen in the wild until 2002, in the Alto Mayo Protected Forest, and finally again in 2007, when it was observed three times and its call was recorded at Abra Patricia, a reserve established to protect its habitat.

Listen to Long-whiskered Owlet.

Now two key properties have been added to the reserve, bringing more than 25,000 acres under protection.

The Abra Patricia Reserve is located in the cloud forests of Peru’s Amazonas Region and is adjacent to the Alto Mayo and Río Nieva Reserved Zone. The area is home to more than 300 bird species, including many that live only in Peru and others that are threatened with extinction.

The vulnerable Cinnamon-breasted Tody-Tyrant and three endangered birds — Ochre-fronted Antpitta, the hummingbird known as the Royal Sunangel, and Johnson’s Tody-Tyrant (also called Lulu’s Tody-Flycatcher and briefly known as Lulu’s Tody-Tyrant) — are also found here, as are the critically endangered yellow-tailed woolly monkey and the vulnerable Andean night monkey. Swainson’s Thrush, Blackburnian Warbler, Canada Warbler, and Cerulean Warbler are some of the songbirds that breed in North America and winter in the forests of Abra Patricia.


The acquisitions were completed by Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos (ECOAN) with funding from American Bird Conservancy, Small Grants for the Purchase of Nature (an IUCN NL program supported by the Netherlands Postcode Lottery), and other donors. When combined with three other properties purchased by ABC and ECOAN in January and February 2013, the newly acquired lands total 1,261 acres.

The reserve at Abra Patricia consists of privately owned land and a 40-year conservation concession on forestry lands, both managed together by ECOAN.

The Alliance for Zero Extinction recognizes the Abra Patricia area as a critical site for both the owlet and the antpitta.

american-bird-conservancy-logo--140x84This story was provided by American Bird Conservancy, a 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. Read about staying at the Owlet Lodge at Abra Patricia.


A version of this article appeared in the December 2013 issue of BirdWatching magazine.

Originally Published

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