Forest Owlet, Heteroglaux blewetti, is currently considered Critically Endangered under criterion C2a(i) on the basis that it has a very small population which is likely declining as a result of habitat loss, and consists of multiple very small subpopulations (BirdLife International 2017). Forest Owlet is endemic to central India and was only known from 7 specimens collected in the 19th Century until its rediscovery in 1997 (G. Jathar in litt. 2012). Surveys since then have found the species in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, and it has been recently reported from Gujarat for the first time (see Kasambe et al. 2015, Patel et al. 2015).
The population size is currently listed as 50-249 mature individuals based on the number of records from known sites. However, as more surveys are conducted more individuals are being found at more sites, e.g. its recent reporting from Gujarat (Patel et al. 2015) and there were 53 sightings from new localities during surveys in Melghat Tiger Reserve, although only 19 were found from known localities there (Kasambe et al. 2015). Given the increasing number of reports of this species it is likely that the global population size is likely to be >250 mature individuals, and so it is suggested that it be placed in the range of 250-999 mature individuals. Melghat Tiger Reserve is considered the main site for this species and the population there has been thought to be c.100 individuals (Kasambe et al. 2005); very roughly equivalent to 67 mature individuals.
The major threat to this species is forest loss and degradation as a result of illegal logging and human encroachment, as well as forest fires and minor irrigation dams (Ishtiaq et al. 2002, Chavan and Rithe 2009). Native raptors may take this species, which can limit productivity, and the species may face competition for limited nesting holes (Jathar 2003, Ishtiaq and Rahmani 2005). In addition to this, the species may be hunted and its eggs collected for use in local customs (Jathar 2003); and pesticides and rodenticides may be having an effect on this species (Jathar 2003). Therefore, the population is likely in decline.
Given that with our expanding knowledge of this species it may be considered that the population size may be >250 mature individuals, and the largest subpopulation is now thought to contain >50 mature individuals, Forest Owlet no longer meets the threshold for Critically Endangered under criterion C2a(i). However, it likely still meets the threshold for listing as Endangered under the same criterion (a continuing decline with a global population size of <2,500 mature individuals, with no subpopulation containing >250 mature individuals). Therefore, it is proposed that this species be downlisted and listed as Endangered under criterion C2a(i).
We welcome any further information, and comments on this proposed downlisting.
BirdLife International (2017) Species factsheet: Heteroglaux blewitti. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 05/01/2017.
Chavan, R. A.; Rithe, K. D. 2009. Occurrence and breeding record of the Forest Owlet Heteroglaux blewitti from Yawal Wildlife Sanctuary, Maharashtra, India. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 106(2): 207-208.
Ishtiaq, F.; Rahmani, A. R. 2005. The Forest Owlet Heteroglaux blewitti: vocalization, breeding biology and conservation. Ibis 147: 197-205.
Ishtiaq, F.; Rahmani, A. R.; Rasmussen, P. C. 2002. Ecology and behaviour of the Forest Owlet (Athene blewetti). Pp. 80-86 in Newton, I., Kavanagh, R., Olsen, J. and Taylor, I., eds. Ecology and conservation of owls. Collingwood, Australia: CSIRO Publishing.
Jathar, G. 2003. Saving the mysterious Forest Owlet. Mistnet 4(3 & 4): 9-10.
Kasambe, R.; Wadatkar, J.; Bhusum, N.S.; Kasdekar, F. 2005. Forest Owlets Heteroglaux blewitti in Melghat Tiger Reserve, Distt. Amravati, Maharashtra. Newsletter for Birdwatchers 45: 38-40.
Kasambe, R.; Wadatkar, J. S.; Wagh, G. A.; Dudhe, N.S. 2015. Status survey and conservation of the critically endangered Forest Owlet (Heteroglaux blewitti) in the Satpudas. BNHS. Report submitted to BirdLife International.
Patel, J.R.; Patel, S. B.; Rathor, S.C.; Patel, J. A.; Patel, P. B.; Vasava, A.G. 2015. New distribution record of the Forest Owlet Heteroglaux blewitti (Aves: Strigiformes: Stigidae) in Purna Wildlife Sanctuary, Gujarat, India. J. Threatened Taxa 7(12): 7940-7944.