This owl is known for its diminutive size and the distinctive facial whiskers that give it its name. Discovered in 1976, it is one of the most recent owl species to be described by science, and it remains one of the least understood due to its elusive nature. This rare bird is native to a restricted area within the cloud forests of the Andes in northern Peru, specifically the region of San Martín.
With a body size no larger than a sparrow’s, the Long-whiskered Owlet has a round, stocky body and disproportionately large eyes adapted to its nocturnal lifestyle. These big eyes are crucial for collecting as much light as possible in the dark understory of its forest habitat. Its plumage is a soft brown, with intricate patterns that provide excellent camouflage against the tree bark and foliage where it spends most of its time.
The “whiskers” around its face are actually modified feathers that may serve a sensory function, similar to the whiskers of a cat, enhancing the bird’s ability to navigate through the dense forest at night. The legs and feet of the owlet are bare, perhaps an adaptation to the warmer climate of its habitat, and its wings and tail are short, characteristics that aid in maneuvering through the cluttered environment of the cloud forest.
The Long-whiskered Owlet’s diet consists of insects and other small invertebrates, which it hunts at night. It uses its sharp talons to snatch prey either in flight or from the forest floor. Due to its small size, its prey items are correspondingly tiny.
One of the most remarkable aspects of this species is its rarity and the specific nature of its habitat. It is found only in primary cloud forests at elevations of about 1,860 to 2,000 meters, where the forest is often shrouded in mist and cloud. These conditions make it a challenging species to study and observe.
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Terrestrial / Aquatic
Altricial / Precocial
Polygamous / Monogamous
Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic
Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal
Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd
Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore
Migratory: Yes / No
Domesticated: Yes / No
Dangerous: Yes / No