Macaronesia is a collection of archipelago islands in the Atlantic off the coast of North Africa. You might be familiar with the Canary or Azores islands, both are part of Macaronesia. These islands are small and isolated. The perfect lab from evolution!
In the last half decade scientists identified fossils on one of these islands, Madeira, as a new type of Scops Owl. This species of owl, Otus mauli, based on skeletal examination seems to be closely related to the the Eurasian scops owl, though having longer leg bones.
Nearly nothing is known about this species. It is believed to have driven to extinction in the 15th century. Probably from the settlement of the island by humans which lead to habitat destruction and predation by invasive species that accompanied humans.
The Laughing Owl, known to the Maori as the Whekau, was a flying bird endemic to the islands of New Zealand (two subspecies, one on the North and one on the South Island.)
The Whekau’s plumage was yellowish-brown striped with dark brown. White straps were across the tops of the shoulders/wings and occasionally the back of the neck. The wings and tail had light-brown bars. The feathers down the legs were yellowish to reddish-buff feathers. The face was white behind and below the eyes, fading to grey with brown stripes towards the center. Males were thought to be more often richly colored, and smaller than females. Average body size ranged from 14-16 inches with wing lengths around 10 inches. The birds were believed to live in open country and rocky outcrops.
Laughing Owls might have been in decline before Europeans came to New Zealand. It is believed, land use, collection of specimens, and the introduction of cats and stoats accelerated their extinction. The last recorded specimen was found dead at Bluecliffs Station in Canterbury, New Zealand on July 5, 1914.