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Spotted Eagle-Owl (Bubo africanus)

It is a large-grayish brown owl, with erect ear-tufts, and striking yellow eyes, and is the commonest large-owl in its range, thriving in thinly-wooded habitats. It has a finely-spotted lower breast and belly, and known for their distinct, soft, ringing, “whooo-whooo’ call, seemingly sounding like “whooo are you?”

Read further to know more about the Spotted Eagle-Owl.

What is a Spotted Eagle-Owl?

Spotted Eagle-Owl (Bubo africanus), also called the African eagle-owl, and African spotted eagle-owl, is a medium-sized owl species. It is considered to be one of the smallest among its cousins. It is the most common owl in Southern Africa, hunting at night and breeding in different habitats, including those nears cities and towns.

Its seven levels of classification are as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Strigiformes

Family: Strigidae

Genus: Bubo

Species: B. africanus

Spotted Eagle-Owl Physical Description

Spotted Eagle-owls can grow from 17 to 20 inches and have a wingspan of about one meter. They a grayish-brown mantle barred with white spots, and grayish-buff rump and back. Their underparts are whitish, marked with gray bands. The throat is white, while underwing tetrices are white and finely gray-barred. Tail and flight feathers are dark grey, accentuated with broad duller bars. Their facial disk is white, with a black rim, while eyes are bright yellow. Meanwhile, their bill is black. They have white-feathered legs, but bare dark brown feet.

The most distinct feature of spotted eagle-owls is their tufts feathers, seemingly erecting like or eras. However, these are only pleasing aesthetically and have nothing to do in enhancing their hearing capabilities. Males and females look similar. The juveniles and immature birds resemble the adult but can be browner and less-barred.

Where can they be spotted?

Spotted eagle-owls thrives in open or semi-open woodland areas, with bushes and shrubs. They can also occur in locations where there is relatively thinner ground cover, such as savannas, dry forests, semi-deserts, grasslands, and rocky hillsides. These birds avoid dense rainforests. They can be found in sub-Saharan Africa, from Kenya to Uganda, to the Western Cape in South Africa. Spotted eagle-owls can also occur in Oman, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia.

Interesting Facts You Should Know About the Spotted Eagle-Owl

Spotted eagle-owls are carnivores, feeding on largest insects, small mammals, birds, frogs, and reptiles. Although, they have also feed known to feed on carcasses. They usually hunt from a perch, and then glides down to their prey, but may also dash towards sleeping or resting birds. They are incredible hunters and can catch flying bats, insects, birds, while in flight.

These birds are nocturnal and typically solitary. They can often be found roosting in rocks, abandoned tunnels, caves, trees, and even under bushes during the day.

Spotted eagle-owls communicate vocally with each other. Typically, the male call is characterized by two hoots, while the females answer back with three. Their broods will not be able to hoot quite effectively until they reach their adult stage. Instead, they will hiss and snap their beaks when they are alarmed. If they are in a relatively normal situation, the juveniles produce a soft ‘kreeeep’ sound, which they repeatedly do for a few seconds.

Spotted eagle-owls are monogamous and form life-long bonds with their partners. Pairs are often seen performing mutual preening or roosting together. They are pretty aggressive with their hunting territory. Their breeding season usually starts in July and continues up to February. The parents will build the nest on the ground, under a shrub, placed amongst rocks, or hidden in other vegetation.

The female will lay a clutch, consisting of 2 to 4 eggs. She will solely do the incubation, relying on the food the male has brought her. Often, even in starvation, the male will hunt mouses, eat only the head, and bring the body to his pair. The incubation will last around 32 days. After hatching, their chicks are blind and will only open their eyes a week later. Four to six weeks later, the owls will leave the nest and start to explore. The broods will learn how to fly at seven weeks. Owlets will be under parental care for another five weeks and reach their sexual maturity a year after they fledged.

Spotted eagle-owls are widespread and frequent in their range. The bird is classified as a least concern species under the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.

WILDLIFE PARKS AND RESERVES WHERE THIS SPECIES IS FOUND:

BOTSWANA

Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Chobe National Park

Linyanti Swamp

Makgadikgadi Pan

Mashatu Game Reserve

Okavango Delta

Moremi Game Reserve

Savute

SOUTH AFRICA

Addo Elephant National Park

Cape Peninsula National Park

Hluhluwe Game Reserves

Kalahari Gemsbok National Park

Knysna Lagoon

Kruger National Park

Madikwe Game Reserve

St Lucia Wetlands

NAMIBIA

Caprivi Region

Damaraland

Etosha National Park

Namib-Naukluft National Park

Skeleton Coast

ZAMBIA

Kafue

Lechwe Plains

Lower Zambezi

South Luangwa

Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park

ZIMBABWE

Gona-re-Zhou

Hwange

Lake Kariba

Mana Pools

Matobo Hills

Victoria Falls

Spotted Eagle Owl
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