Current Zoology(formerly Acta Zoologica Sinica),   Jun. 2003, 49(3): 389 - 392
Title: Belly-mottled little owl Athene brama poikila should be boreal owl (Aegolius funereus beickianus)
Authors: SUN Yue-Hua   BI Zhong-Lin   Wolfgang SCHERZINGER
Abstract: Based on two specimens collected from Sichuan Province, Yang et al. (1989) described a new subspecies of the spotted little owl (Athene brama), the belly-mottled little owl (Athene brama poikila) . This subspecies has been acknowledged by Cheng (2000). However, Cheng (2000) also mentioned that further work should be done on this subspecies. In 2001, we checked the specimen of Athene brama poikila in Ya'an, Sichuan and comparing them with the spotted little owl and the boreal owl (Aegolius funereus). The boreal owl is identifiable from its rather square facial disc, however, this character was destroyed during the facture for these two specimens of Athene brama poikila. That is the reason Yang et al.(1989) missed them with the genus Athene. The genus Aegolius is also identifiable from the genus Athene from the character on the toes, as the toes of the boreal owl are covered with thick feathers, whereas the toes of the little owl are bristled. The toes of these two specimens of Athene brama poikila are thickly feathered, corresponding to the identification of the genus Aegolius. The morphological characters and measurements of the two specimens also correspond to the boreal owl. The habitat of the two specimens was reported as conifer deciduous forest around 2 200m to 3 100 m, which fits the habitat of the boreal owl. The distribution of the endemic Gansu subspecies of the boreal owl (A. f. beickianus) was reported at Tiantangsi, Lianhuashan in Gansu, Guinan in Qinghai and Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan in China, it was also reported at Lahul in north India, Sun et al. (2001) suggested that it is probably the boreal owl is also distributed in the conifer forest of west Sichuan and east Tibet. The new distribution point in Baoxing and Yajiang in Sichuan corresponds to this conjecture. As a conclusion, we believe that these two specimens should belong to the A. f. beickianus of the boreal owl [Acta Zoologica Sinica 49(3):389-392,2003].
Keywords: Taxonomy,Belly-mottled little owl (Athene brama poikila) ,Spotted little owl(Athene brama),Boreal owl (Aegolius funeres beickianus)

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