Congo bay owl
|Congo Bay Owl|
|Population||9,360 est. (2012)|
The Congo bay owl (Phodilus prigoginei) is a species of owl found in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. A rare bird even when made known to science, Congo bay owls have rarely been seen due to habitat loss.
The only recorded physical description of a Congo bay owl was taken of a female netted in a grassland in the Itombwe Forest in 1951. They are believed to be up to 12 inches in total length. Coloration is a chestnut brown above, with lighter tan to white on the chest, with both upper and lower feathers marked by sparsely-placed black spots. Like their relatives the barn owls, Congo bay owls bear a heart-shaped facial disk, but with a less-pronounced "forehead" of feathers jutting down to the beak than in other bay owls; in fact, some researchers believe that it should be placed along with the barn owls in the genus Tyto.
Congo bay owls are little known due to their scarcity and elusiveness. Based on habits of other bay owls, researchers believe them to be completely nocturnal, spending their days hidden in the trees. At night the birds are active, hunting small rodents, birds, reptiles, frogs, and insects. Their reproductive and nesting habits are unknown.
Researchers believe Congo bay owls require a mixture of grassland and montane forests of either bamboo or woodland, based on records of birds netted in 1951 and 1996, with the last capture taking place within a human-disturbed area, indicating these owls tolerate some human activity.
Congo bay owls have not been seen in the wild between 1951 and 1996 when one was netted (a second female) in the extreme south-east corner of the Itombwe Forest of the DRC. The area of the Itombwe Massif - a range of low, forested mountains - has been the target of extensive clearings for farmland, grazing, and logging, and it is believed that this activity severely impacted the owls.