The Cape Eagle Owl, also known as the Bubo capensis, is a large owl known for its prominent ears and spotted look. It belongs to the Strigidae family, which is composed of true owls and typical owls. The Cape Eagle Owl’s closest cousins include the Elf Owl, Jamaican Owl, Tawny Owl, and Fearful Owl.
This owl species was first described by Scottish explorer, surgeon, and zoologist Sir Andrew Smith in 1834. Smith produced the “Illustrations of the Zoology of South Africa,” a notable contribution in zoology. His remarkable works earned him the title “Father of Zoology in South Africa.”
The Cape Eagle Owl has three subspecies:
Cape Eagle Owl (B. c. capensis) – found at the southern half of southern Africa
Mackinder’s Eagle Owl (B. c. mackinderi) – located at southern Kenya & south to the northern half of south region of Africa
Abyssinian Eagle Owl (B. c. dilloni) – situated at Eritrea and highlands in Ethiopia
Since this owl species occurs in a vast range across southern Africa and its population appears to be on a stable rise, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorized the bird species as Least Concern.
Its seven levels of classification are as follows:
Species: B. capensis
The physical characteristics of a Cape Eagle Owl
Compared to other Bubo owls, the Cape Eagle Owl is intermediate in size. Females are usually heavier than males. A female Cape Eagle Owl weighs from 1,240 to 1,800 g, while a male Cape Eagle Owl weighs between 905 to 1,387 g. An adult grows typically from 46 to 61 cm.
A Cape Eagle Owl’s facial disc is pale brownish, drawn with black or dark brown rim that extends broadly towards the neck. Its eyes are yellow-orange, the cere is greyish, and it has a dusky hornbill. The owl’s prominent dark brown ear tuffs are brownish on the inner edges. Its crowns are tawny to greyish-brown with black spots.
A Cape Eagle Owl’s upperparts are dark brown with fulvous-tawny, brown, and black spots. The outer scapulars have white areas dotted with black marks that form a row across the shoulder. Its wing covers are filled with white spots, while its flight and tail feathers are barred dark and light.
The distribution and habitat of Cape Eagle Owls
Cape Eagle Owls are common in Kenya and South Africa. They frequent a wide range of habitats such as mountainous regions and hilly, rocky areas, and adjacent wooded guilles. Cape Eagle owls hunt in open savannahs and human settlements to predate rock doves.
The behavior of a Cape Eagle Owl
Like any other owls, the Cape Eagle Owl is a nocturnal bird that is sometimes sighted before sunset and after sunrise. It spends the day roosting between rocks, in crevices or cliff holes, or the shade of rocks. It may roost on buildings and trees with dense foliage too.
During the breeding season, Cape Eagle Owls become territorial. They occupy vast territories. A male Cape Eagle Owl will claim an occupied territory by singing.
Cape Eagle Owls perform courtship displays. The male bows in front of female, which is uttering rhythmic hoots while exposing its inflated white throat. Together they build their nest in a sheltered rock ledge, between two large rocks, or under a bush. They collect stick nests of larger birds in tall trees and bushes.
The female Cape Eagle Owl will lay 1-3 white eggs on the nest. It will lay one egg every two days. The eggs will be incubated by the female Cape Eagle Owl for 34-38 days, during which the male will feed its partner. Once the eggs are hatched, the female Cape Eagle Owl will feed the chicks with the food being supplied by the male. When the chicks reach 17 days old, the female will leave the chicks alone. When the chicks reach 45 days old, they can wander around the environment. Parents will look after their young until they reach six months old.
The diet of a Cape Eagle Owl
This predator bird feeds on various organisms: small rodents, hares, birds, frogs, scorpions, reptiles, crabs, and large insects. The majority of the Cape Eagle Owl’s diet is made up of medium-sized birds and mammals. A Cape Eagle hunts by perching from atop, then gliding downwards to kill its prey by catching using its sharp talons and biting the head off.
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