Bubo lacteus (Verreaux's eagle-owl, Giant eagle owl) 

Reuse ooruil [Afrikaans]; Reuse-ooruil [Afrikaans]; Ifubesi (also applied to Spotted eagle owl) [Xhosa]; iFubesi, isiKhova [Zulu]; Editika (generic term for eagle owl) [Kwangali]; Zizi (generic name for owl) [Shona]; Nkhunsi [Tsonga]; Makgotlwê, Mophoê, Morubise (these terms also applied to Spotted eagle-owl) [Tswana]; Verreaux-oehoe [Dutch]; Grand-duc de Verreaux [French]; Milchuhu, Blaßuhu [German]; Bufo-leitoso [Portuguese]

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Bubo lacteus (Verreaux's eagle-owl, Giant eagle owl)   

Verreaux's eagle-owl. [photo Neil Gray ©]

 

The Verreaux's eagle-owl occurs across sub-Saharan Africa, mainly occupying arid savanna and forest. It mainly eats mammals and birds, including large species such as the Pel's fishing owl. It is an extremely agile hunter for its size, and can actually catch smaller birds in flight! It uses stick nests constructed by other birds, such as weavers, crows and raptors. Here it lays 2 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female, for about 38-39 days, who is fed at night by the male. Of the two chicks only one survives, the other obtains less food from its parents, and usually dies of starvation after 2-3 weeks. The surviving chick stays in the nest for about 2 months, after which he remains dependent on his parents for 1-2 more years.

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in sub-Saharan Africa, excluding lowland equatorial forest. In southern Africa it is locally common in northern and central Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and northern South Africa. It generally prefers arid savanna and woodland, especially riverine forest, occasionally moving into open areas such as grassland.

Distribution of Verraux's eagle-owl in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Food 

Its diet consists of a wide variety of animals, most of which are vertebrates such as mammals and birds. It usually hunts at night, sitting on a perch in the open and searching for prey. Once it spots something it rapidly glides down to the ground, attempting to grab the prey item with its talons. If it fails to catch anything, it often stays on the ground, trying to flush the animal out of its hiding place. It is extremely agile on the wing, and can actually catch small birds in flight! The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

Breeding

  • Usually uses stick nests constructed by other birds, such as Sociable weavers, Red-billed buffalo weavers, Hamerkops, Secretarybirds and especially raptors, ranging from the small nests of goshawks to the large platforms constructed by eagles or vultures. It also occasionally uses tree cavities, as well as nests in tangles of creepers and orchids.
Bubo lacteus (Verreaux's eagle-owl, Giant eagle owl)  

Verraux's eagle-owl at its nest with chick, Central Kruger Park, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

 
  • Egg-laying season is from roughly May-October, peaking from June-September.
  • It usually lays two eggs, one of which is slightly smaller than the other. They are incubated solely by the female for about 38-39 days, while the male feeds her at night.
  • Of the two chicks only one survives, as the other obtains less food from its parents and usually dies of starvation after 2-3 weeks. The surviving chick stays in the nest for about 62-63 days, taking its first flight a few months later. It usually remains in its parents territory for a year before becoming independent, however some fledglings remain with their parents for another year, to help them raise the next chick.

Threats

Not officially threatened, however it might be vulnerable due to its low population density and reproductive rate.

References

  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

 

 

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