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New Owl Sings “Here Comes The Bride”

Photo of newly discovered Omani owl.

The newly discovered owl. Photograph by Arnoud B van den Berg

A new owl recently found in Oman seems to also be a lovebird: It sings a tune that sounds a lot like the song “Here Comes the Bride.”

The small owl, with orange eyes and gray and tan mottled feathers, is tentatively named Strix omanensis, according to Magnus Robb, one of the owl’s discoverers. 

Robb and his colleagues are with The Sound Approach, a British company founded by Lush Cosmetics CEO Mark Constantine that is devoted to “turning bird watchers into bird listeners.”

The group was in the Al Hajar Mountains in northeastern Oman in late March to record songs of existing owls for a CD to accompany an upcoming book on the owls of Europe, North Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula (also known as the Western Palearctic).

One of the last birds they needed to record was the pallid scops-owl, Otus brucei. After five nights of searching, they finally scored a high-quality recording of the animal. Robb walked over to the tree where he had hidden the microphone when he heard something in the distance. (Watch owl videos.)

“I had put on the headphones to check the recording and heard this mystery bird for the first time. I was really taken by surprise. I couldn’t even tell where the owl was,” Robb said.

“Like Nothing Else in Arabia”

The initial song Robb captured was faint and not the high-quality recording he knew he would need to make a definitive identification. So his team returned to the same wadi in Oman where they first heard the call over the following months. Finally, with the right equipment in the right location, Robb caught the call clearly. (See a picture of a strange owl.)

It sounded a bit like the tune from “Here Comes the Bride,” he said: who … who … whowho.

“It’s a distinctive sound, like nothing else in Arabia.”

This unusual song was an indication that he was listening to a new species. The songs and calls of owls, Robb explained, are innate. Unlike songbirds, which learn their calls by copying other birds and even “borrowing” parts from other species, an owl’s song is inbred.

“Any major variation from the known is likely to indicate a new or unknown species,” he said. (See National Geographic’s birds of prey pictures.)

Elusive Owl

In nocturnal species like owls, identifying a unique song or call is often crucial to the discovery of a new species, since it’s often difficult to visually spot the bird.

Robb, who prefers to study nocturnal birds, knows the challenge well. Although his team at the Sound Approach had recorded the potentially new species, they had never seen it.

When they tried to spot it using flashlights, the owl usually flew off before they could snap its photo. Finally, after many nights, they caught it on film.

If the discovery holds up, the owl will be the first new bird species discovered on the Arabian Peninsula in more than three-quarters of a century.

Tell us: Does it sound like “Here Comes the Bride?”

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Comments

  1. elisa
    verbania
    November 3, 2013, 1:26 pm

    sweet call, as exclamative calm surprise

  2. V MATTHEWS
    INDIA
    October 31, 2013, 8:02 am

    The owl is hooting out…….Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!…..in the Arab world….beginning with the monarchy of Oman itself!….MATTS

  3. bonniefeelgood
    las vegas
    October 30, 2013, 10:57 pm

    All i heard was hoot hoot hoot hoot,,

  4. Bruce Beehler
    Washington, DC
    October 28, 2013, 1:46 pm

    The photo looks just like Hume’s Owl (Strix butleri). The voice also appears to be that of Strix butleri….

  5. LInda
    Arizona
    October 27, 2013, 4:17 pm

    Yeah, it sounds just like “Here Comes the Bride” if you are tone deaf! It hoots the pattern, but not the notes.

  6. Patricia Klar
    United States
    October 27, 2013, 11:07 am

    I’ve been to a lot of weddings, and the wedding march was different in every one, there are so many versions to choose from. It’s a slower version for the bride who wants to go slowly so she can take it all in and be sure all of her guests get a glimpse of her.
    Perhaps this owl is quite calm and wants a mate that’s patient. I’ll leave that to the experts, but beautiful recording anyway, even with the crickets and other animals.

  7. asmaa
    egypt
    October 26, 2013, 9:53 am

    voice isn’t that clear , all what i heared is some hmmm :D

  8. Richmond
    Philippines
    October 26, 2013, 6:57 am

    The discovery is similar to how three new species of owls were recently discovered here in the Philippines. Cool.

  9. Ima Ryma
    October 26, 2013, 4:18 am

    A new owl found in Oman,
    Strix omanensis – maybe name.
    Found by humans who get it on
    With bird listening as the aim.
    The first time the Strix song was heard,
    The tune, familiar, yet unique.
    Humans just had to see this bird
    That sang this song from neath its beak.
    And so the humans patiently,
    Like paparazzi lurked at night,
    Till the elusive owl did be
    A combo in sound and in sight.

    Halloweenish – all orangy eyed,
    The owl sings, “Here comes the bride.”

  10. betty brown
    United States
    October 25, 2013, 9:29 pm

    actually i didnt hear “here comes the bride ” all i heard was an owl hooting sorry

  11. donnajurovcik@hotmail.com
    facebook Donna Jurovcik
    October 25, 2013, 5:19 pm

    Nathan Lyle answers with some fine humor. Recording of the owl comes across clear and somewhat like “here comes the bride” music. …what a hoot !

  12. Krisinda Boyce
    Canada
    October 25, 2013, 3:57 pm

    After first try wouldn’t work wanted me to download. Then I get message something went wrong. Now that I hear the owl sound recording finally worked. This owl sounds softer but it hoots. NO “Here comes the Bride” tune at all.

  13. Krisinda Boyce
    Canada
    October 25, 2013, 3:53 pm

    Well this is very disappointing…sound recording refuses to work unless i download an all new sound system just to hear this owl sing. Come National Geographic you can do better.

  14. Cheryl Johnson
    Toronto, Canada
    October 25, 2013, 3:45 pm

    WOW!!! This is amazing, Thank you for sharing and all the hard work your team does… Very cool, I hear the tune, yes and the more I listen to it the more it sounds like it :)

  15. Victoria Luckie
    UK
    October 25, 2013, 2:55 pm

    I can see how someone who was specifically looking for it might think this, but even then it is a stretch. So no.

  16. PEDRO MARTIN FELIX MORY
    almeria-Spain
    October 25, 2013, 2:18 pm

    it sounds loud and clear like a singing and i can guess that
    it’s trying to communicate with its pair..anyway beautiful expression of nature..

  17. Nathan Lyle
    United States
    October 25, 2013, 2:04 pm

    That’s no more “here comes the bride” than it was really the face of Jesus on my toast this morning. :-/

  18. Bernice
    PH
    October 25, 2013, 2:03 pm

    it actually does sound like the song, or more like, its calls go with the syllables and timing of the song. just rendered very very very slowly, kinda like morse code lol.

  19. JohnC
    October 25, 2013, 1:56 pm

    It sounds like that funeral song….

  20. Missy
    Atlanta, GA
    October 25, 2013, 1:41 pm

    Doesn’t sound like ‘hear comes the bride” at all.. SOunds like an Owl though

  21. Gilbert Silva
    Mississauga, Canada
    October 25, 2013, 12:50 pm

    I stand correct, I could hear the bird loud and clear, I’m sorry!
    However, I could not make any distinction from this owl to any other owl I have ever head singing. I pretty much think that the bridal singing is in your mind, either this or I have very bad ear.

  22. Gilbert Silva
    Mississauga, Canada
    October 25, 2013, 12:40 pm

    You stressed the fact that it can “sing” very differently from it’s counter part, and yet you give papers to read! It doesn’t matter what you have to say, what matter is what I can hear from this bird. So bring me facts that I can hear.

  23. David Gauthier
    Ottawa
    October 25, 2013, 12:39 pm

    I would never have placed here comes the bride without you guys saying it. so yes and no

  24. Terry Grancho
    October 25, 2013, 12:34 pm

    It doesn’t sound like that at all… -.-