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Athene
Little Owl, Athene noctua
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae
Genus: Athene
Boie, 1822
Species

Athene blewitti
Athene brama
Athene cunicularia
Athene noctua
and see text

Synonyms

Heteroglaux
Speotyto
Spheotyto (lapsus)

The genus Athene contains two to four living species of small owls. These birds are small, brown and white speckled owls, with yellow eyes and white eyebrows. This genus is found in all continents except for Australia, Antarctica, and Subsaharan Africa.

  • Spotted Owlet, Athene brama
  • Little Owl, Athene noctua
  • Forest Owlet, Athene blewitti - sometimes placed in Heteroglaux
  • Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia - sometimes placed in Speotyto
    • Antiguan Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia amaura - extinct (c.1905)
    • Guadeloupe Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia guadeloupensis - extinct (c.1890)

A number of mainly island representatives of this genus are only known from fossil or subfossil remains:

  • Athene megalopeza (fossil; Rexroad Late Pliocene of WC USA) - sometimes placed in Speotyto
  • Athene veta (fossil; Early Pleistocene of Rebielice, Poland)
  • Athene angelis (fossil; Middle - Late Pleistocene of Castiglione, Corsica)
  • Athene trinacriae (Pleistocene)
  • Athene cf. cunicularia (fossil; Pleistocene of Barbuda, West Indies) - sometimes placed in Speotyto
  • Athene cf. cunicularia (fossil; Pleistocene of Cayman Islands, West Indies) - sometimes placed in Speotyto
  • Athene cf. cunicularia (fossil; Pleistocene of Jamaica, West Indies) - sometimes placed in Speotyto
  • Athene cf. cunicularia (fossil; Pleistocene of Mona Island, West Indies) - sometimes placed in Speotyto
  • Athene cf. cunicularia (fossil; Pleistocene of Puerto Rico, West Indies) - sometimes placed in Speotyto
  • Cretan Owl, Athene cretensis (prehistoric; Crete, Mediterranean)
Cretan Owl with Candiacervus ropalophorus

The Cretan Owl was a flightless or near-flightless form that was more than 50 cm (almost 2 ft) tall. It went extinct soon after the island of Crete became inhabited by humans.

Late Miocene (about 11 mya) fossil remains from Rudabánya (NE Hungary) have been tentatively assigned to this genus (Bernor et al. 2002). Considering the known fossil range of Athene and the misassignments of many Miocene strigids from Europe, it may be a basal member of the present genus or not belong here. The supposed species "Athene" murivora is the name given to subfossil bones of male Rodrigues Owls.

References

  • Bernor, R.L.; Kordos, L. & Rook, L. (eds): Recent Advances on Multidisciplinary Research at Rudabánya, Late Miocene (MN9), Hungary: A compendium. Paleontographica Italiana 89: 3-36. PDF fulltext
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