The distribution of the Forest Owlet is patchy, which is one of the reasons that it is categorized as Critically Endangered. This makes the Forest Owlet more vulnerable compared to other adaptable and widely distributed owl species. A possible reason for the patchy distribution of the forest owlet is a narrow set of habitat conditions that are needed for its life cycle. An understanding of the habitat factors that are needed by the forest owlet from intact habitats will help in understanding the reasons for its discontinuous distribution. This will be immensely useful for conservation of the Forest Owlet.
Of all the known sites, the largest population and most secure status of the forest owlet is probably from Melghat Tiger Reserve. Melghat is a densely-forested region located on the northern boundary of Maharashtra and shares its boundary with Burhanpur and Betul districts of Madhya Pradesh. Melghat forms an offshoot of the Satpuda Hill Ranges. Most of Melghat is very hilly but some parts towards the northern side are fairly plain.
Successful reproduction of a species is dependent upon habitat and environmental factors. Since Melghat has a fairly large Forest Owlet population it will be useful to study the ecological correlates that influences nest site selection and habitat use by the forest owlet and its breeding success. With this objective, we have initiated a long-term ecological study on the Forest Owlet in Melghat. This study will help to explain the reasons for its patchy distribution and show the way forward in planning ex-situ conservation of this enigmatic owl species.
The project is supported by Raptor Research and Conservation Foundation and The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.