As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Karimui Owlet-nightjar - rediscovered after half a century

by Ashley Banwell -

Aegotheles affinis terborgi is only known from a single specimen taken at 1100 meters from the Karimui Basin in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea on 16th August 1964. This individual was presented to Jared M. Diamond by a native who said he had caught it by hand while it was sleeping on a branch during the day. JMD named this distinctive race after Dr John Terborgh was had accompanied him on a 1964 collecting trip to Karimui. Since its discovery it had been place under Barred Owlet-nightjar A bennettii based upon its close similarity to the two mainland races of A bennettii but it was distinct from these races in its much larger size, wing length being 154mm compared with A bennetti bennettii which has a 121-128 wing, as well as its much darker blacker upper parts. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive currently places it under Allied Owlet-nightjar A affinis and the recent Birds of New Guinea - Distribution, Taxonomy and Systematics places it under Barred A bennettii

The other population of Allied is present in the Arfak Mountains of the Bird's head Peninsular in West Papua at the elevation of 80-1500m which is some 1400 kms to the west. Most authors agree that it is a good possibility that it may well be a full species but further observations and recordings of its vocalisations would be required to increase the knowledge of this taxon. 

Having a keen interest on nocturnal birding and combined with my passion for Papuan birding I had been aware that there may well be something of great interest hiding on the old volcano at Karimui. I had been making enquiries about visiting the region for a couple of years and finally in July 2016 I was back in Port Morseby with Karimui next up on my agenda. Despite Air Niugini's best efforts to cancel my plans and the countries Prime Minister facing a vote of no confidence we eventually made it into Goroka via Lae, not as we planned but we were ready for our MAFF charter flight into Karimui. So Markus Lagerqvist, Roger McNeill, Daniel Wakra and myself had four nights in Karimui to find an owlet-nightjar without any recordings or information on where to look it suddenly seemed a tall order. 

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