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Europe's endangered brown fish-owl spotted in southern Turkey

ANKARA – Anatolia News Agency | 8/13/2010 12:00:00 AM |

Ketupa zeylonensis, a rare European bird of prey commonly known as the brown fish-owl, has been spotted in southern Turkey's Taurus Mountains.

Ketupa zeylonensis, a rare European bird of prey commonly known as the brown fish-owl, has been spotted in southern Turkey's Taurus Mountains.

Ornithologists from the Turkey-based Nature Association said they had succeeded in taking photos of three fish-owls in the Taurus Mountains. 

No more than 10 pairs of fish-owls are believed to inhabit Turkey, the only place in Europe where the species breeds. 

Ornithologists Soner Bekir, Murat Bozdoğan and Emin Yoğurtçuoğlu trekked from Kahramanmaraş to Antalya to spot the species which features on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, or IUCN’s, “Red List,” said Nature Association Science Coordinator Özge Balkız. 

Balkız said she thought more pairs might inhabit the area, but added that they would be difficult to spot because of their nocturnal hunting patterns and because they can also conceal themselves despite their enormous size. 

Ketupa zeylonensis inhabit areas throughout central and tropical South Asia, from Pakistan through India and Sri Lanka to southern China and Southeast Asia. West of this main habitation area, its numbers are patchy toward the northern Levant and southwestern Anatolia. It inhabits lowlands, in well-wooded areas, open woodland, dense forest and plantations. In the west the birds are found in semiarid landscapes and breed in oases in arid regions; regardless of habitat, however, it rarely strays far from large bodies of water such as rivers and lakes.

The breeding grounds of brown fish-owls, which are endangered in Europe, are threatened by dams and hydroelectric power plants, Balkız said.

The species is mostly nocturnal but can often be located during daylight hours by the small birds that surround it while it roosts. It feeds mainly on fish, frogs and aquatic crustaceans but – unlike other large birds of prey – rarely eats terrestrial amniotes.

Despite the fact that the population trend of the brown fish-owl generally appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to change the species’ status to “Vulnerable” according to the species extinction threat catalogue maintained by the IUCN.

Accordingly, the species remains in the IUCN’s “Least Concern” category.

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