Rodrigues Little Owl

Rodrigues Little Owl


Profile Rodrigues Little Owl

[order] STRIGIFORMES | [family] STRIGIDAE | [latin] Athene murivora | [UK] Rodrigues Little Owl | [Authority] Milne-Edwards, 1874

Rodrigues Little Owl extinct species

The anonymous author of the Relation de l’ Ile Rodrigue (c. 1725) mentions a small owl that preyed on little birds and lizards and could be heard calling in fine weather. This brief account is often correlated with some fairly fragmentary skeletal material that was found on the island around a century and a half later. This correlation is, of course, a little tenuous but it is by no means unreasonable. The skeletal remains were assigned to the genus Athene by the celebrated French comparative anatomist Alphonse Milne-Edwards who, during the last decades of the nineteenth century was the leading expert in fossil and sub-fossil birds.

Unfortunately, his suggestion that the remains could be assigned to Athene may not be correct. First, the remains by no means represent a complete specimen. Second, the Athene species with which Milne-Edwards compared the Rodrigues material has more recently been reassigned to the genus Ninox. This highlights the difficulty of making judgements when assessing incomplete skeletal material. What the evidence of the bones does show is that this species had legs of particular strength and length for an owl of this rather small stature. It can be deduced, therefore, that it was more terrestrial than most owls. The reasons for its extinction are unknown, as too is the time of this event.

Ann. Sci. Nat. Zool. Ser. 5, no. 19: 13.

Join the discussion