The focus of this study was to determine whether individual vocal identification of Scops Owls Otus scops was possible and if there was a stability of the hoot-calls over a short time period in the same individuals. Spontaneous vocalizations of 13 owls were recorded in 2004 in Southern Tuscany, Italy. Visual analysis of spectrograms and quantitative multivariate analysis of six vocal features showed marked individual differences. In some owls a repertoire of two different hoot types was found. In 2005, 10 Scops owls were recorded three times in the same breeding season (2 hours and 10 days after the first session). Statistical analysis of data showed that 60% of owls did not change call features over time. However a slight but significant variability between successive vocal performances of the same owl was found in 40% of cases. This variability may decrease the recognition power by acoustic analysis. To overcome this obstacle I suggest a multi step qualitative/quantitative approach. A Difference Index (DI) was calculated to set a threshold between the slight intra-individual and the very high inter-individual variability. This method allowed the recognition of calls of each owl recorded over time in 2005.
Scops Owl, Otus, vocal identification, vocal individuality, vocal variability