The Owl Pages

Long-whiskered Owlet (Xenoglaux loweryi)

Close frontal view of a Long-whiskered Owlet at night

Close frontal view of a Long-whiskered Owlet at night by Glenn Bartley
© Glenn Bartley. Location: Abra Patricia-Alto Nieva Private Conservation Area, Northern Peru. November 2011.
"The Long-whiskered Owlet is an enigma. The bird was first discovered in 1976 by John O'Neil and was then not seen again until 2002! Even to this day very few people have had good looks at it. At just 5 inches this bird is among the smallest species of Owl in the world. It is so unique that upon discovery ornithologists immediately put it in to its own genus Xenoglaux which means 'strange owl'. Endemic to a very small area of northern Peru this bird seems to prefer cloud forests with dense undergrowth. It is thought that there may be as few as 250 individuals in existence prompting the Alliance for Zero Extinction to place this species on their list as one of the 800 animals in the world most at risk of extinction.

Late one evening in November I trekked down a muddy trail into the elfin cloud forest that surrounds Abra Patricia. I knew that spotting this bird was incredibly unlikely but I decided to give it a try anyway. Once I reached an area of suitable habitat I waited patiently to hopefully hear the birds call. Before long, to my delight, I heard what I believed to be an Owlet calling in the distance. I began to use the birds call to try to lure him in towards me. It was a jolt of adrenaline and excitement when I realized that the recording was working and the bird was coming closer. I stood motionless. I didn't dare fiddle with my equipment. I didn't dare check to see what insects were crawling up my leg. Heck...I didn't dare breathe!

All of a sudden I saw a flash of movement in front of me. The moon was nearly full and there was enough light to just make out the movement. I shone my flashlight in the direction of the fluttering object and there it was not even 20 feet away on an open branch staring right at me - The Owlet. As I walked back up the hill after photographing this incredible bird I could hardly believe what had just happened. I think that there are moments in our lives as photographers and bird watchers that we will never forget. For me, this was most definitely one of them.
" - Glenn Bartley.