Everett’s Scops Owl of Mindanao

One of the places I visited while in Mindanao, Philippines was a place called PICOP. It stands for Paper Industries Corporation of the Philippines. As the name implies, it was a logging site that produced paper and other timber products. It has long since been closed down and the forest now is unfortunately being decimated by other factors. Nonetheless, it is still an important site to get a lot of endemic Philippines birds.

One of the endemic bird there is the Everett’s Scops Owl (Otus everetti). It is a recent split from the Philippines Scops Owl, and the outskirt of the town of Bislig is apparently a good place to find it. At dusk, we arrived at a nondescript place with a patch of secondary forest, a road, and nearby some sort of worker’s compound. The place did not seem like much, but we were assured that the bird has been spotted here before.

Once the place got dark, the guide started playing the call of the owl to attract its attention. Minutes passed by, and then some more. Nothing. Motorbikes passed by every now and then. Mosquitoes abound and took a liking to us, and it looks like the guide was getting quite nervous. I was getting a bit impatient.

It must have been at least 15 minutes and the place was really dark when suddenly a flash of a bird flying pass. Everyone scurried to the landing place and the torches were aimed squarely at the owl. No one made any noise save for the rapid shutter sound from the cameras.

Everett's Scops Owl
(Everett’s Scops Owl with a Philippine Parachute Gecko in its mouth, perched on a bamboo clump)

Once the bird settled down and likewise the human, we started taking in the info. In my excitement, I did not realize that it has a prey in it’s mouth. The cryptic pattern of the prey blended well with the owl’s own. It turns out to be a Intermediate Flying Gecko or Philippine Parachute Gecko (Ptychozoon intermedium). A rarely seen endemic gecko that has not well studied. So we had a rare bird with a rare gecko as a meal. Cool.

Everett's Scops Owl
(The owl doesn’t look too happy with our presence. Notice the big wound on one of its leg?)

The prey apparently put up a battle before succumbing to the owl’s superior claws and mouth. Evidence of that is in the injured leg of the owl.

Everett's Scops Owl
(Here you can see the underside of the gecko is yellow. Also the gecko is being held by the owl’s mouth. It is unlikely that it wants to eat the prey at this stage.)

Everett's Scops Owl
(The feet of the gecko looks padded and webbed. The owl in the meantime seems to be eager to go elsewhere.)

The parachute gecko gets its name from the fact that it is believed to parachute and glide down from trees. These cryptic, forest dwelling geckos are good at concealing themselves on trunks and branches due to the patterns in their body. Not well characterized, the species in the Philippines does not even have a Wikipedia entry.

Everett's Scops Owl
(The back view is seen. The owl has also shifted the gecko to its feet as well)

After a short while on the bamboo clump, it decided to fly over across the road to another perch. We manage to see clearer view of its back, but soon it decided to leave that perch as well. We decided that we had enough views and should leave the bird to deal with its prey undisturbed.

The owl probably was hunting, therefore ignoring our guide’s payback until it managed to get a prey. It did not seem to want to eat the gecko there either. Perhaps it was meant for another bird? Of course that remains a speculation.

Once last thing. There is not a whole lot of information about the Everett’s Scops Owl available online. Having scoured for pictures of this owl, it seems that eye colour of this species is rather variable with some being dark, some being orange and this particular specimen veering towards yellow. The significance of this is not known.

Further Reading:
Everett’s Scops Owl information from Birdforum
Ptychozoon: the geckos that glide with flaps and fringes
Ptychozoon intermedium from PhilBREO

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