Family: Strigidae (typical owls)

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Species indigenous to southern Africa

Asio capensis (Marsh owl) 

The Marsh owl has populations scattered across Botswana, Zimbabwe and large areas of South Africa, living mainly in tall grassland. It usually hunts in the day, eating insects but also small vertebrates, mainly hunting on the wing. It usually nests in a slight depression in the ground, surrounded by dense grass and weeds, making it difficult to find. Here it lays 2-6, usually 2-4 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female, for about 27-28 days. The male does all the hunting, storing his prey in "caches", to be eaten later by either him or the female. The chicks stay in the nest for about 14-18 days, after which they crawl around the surrounding bush for a few weeks, at least until they learn to fly, becoming independent about a month later.

Bubo africanus (Spotted eagle-owl) 

The Spotted eagle-owl is a familiar bird in many parts of southern Africa, and it lives in a wide range of habitats. It has an extremely varied diet, eating anything from poisonous snakes and carrion to falcons and insects. It breeds in most months in the year, nesting in a variety of different places. There are usually 2-3 chicks in one brood, up to 6 chicks in good years. Juveniles are only fully independent 4 months after leaving the nest.

Bubo capensis (Cape eagle-owl)

The Cape eagle-owl can be seen in many parts of southern Africa, but nowhere is it common. It lives in rocky, sometimes mountainous areas, in various vegetation types. Most of its diet consists of mammals, but it also feeds on birds and invertebrates. Amazingly, it can carry prey that is 4,5 kg, or 4 times its weight! It nests in scrapes in the ground, often on ledges or between cliffs. It lays 1-3 eggs, and incubation lasts for 34-38 days, the female doing most of it, with the male sometimes taking over while the female feeds. After fledging, juveniles stay dependent on their parents for 2-3 months, before leaving completely.

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

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.

Glaucidium capense (African barred owlet, Barred owl) 

The African barred owlet is uncommon in most areas of its range, being most prolific in the Miombo woodlands of Zimbabwe, and northern Botswana. It prefers open woodland, with sparse undergrowth and a stream or river nearby. It eats mainly invertebrates, due to its small size, but it can eat dormice, small birds and reptiles. It nests in natural tree hollows, sometimes 6 metres above ground, laying 2-3 eggs, which are presumed to be incubated by the female. The chicks stay in the nest 32-33 days, after which they learn to fly. They usually can fly at 42 days old.

Glaucidium perlatum (Pearl-spotted owlet, Pearl-spotted owl) 

The Pearl-spotted owlet is common in many parts of Southern Africa, where it can be found in open woodland, thorn savannah and bushveld. Unlike most owls, it hunts in the day as well as the night, feeding mainly on invertebrates, with small mammals and birds making up most of the remainder of its diet. It mainly nests in tree holes, usually made by barbets or woodpeckers. It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated mainly by the female. Once hatched, chicks stay in the nest for 27-32 days, after which they live in bushes nearby, being fed by their parents for at least 14 days longer.

Otus senegalensis (African scops-owl) 

The African scops-owl can be found in many places in southern Africa, being most abundant in central Namibia, Botswana and north-eastern South Africa. It usually lives in arid savannah woodland. It can also be found in valley bushveld in the Eastern cape. Being only 14-18 cm high, it mainly eats invertebrates, with the remainder being made up of small birds, mammals and reptiles. It usually nests in cavities in trees. It lays 2-4 eggs that are incubated by the female, while the male hunts. The eggs hatch after about 22 days, and the chicks remain in the nest for 25-28 days, after which they leave the nest for the surrounding bush.

Ptilopsis granti (Southern white-faced scops-owl, White-faced owl) 

The Southern white-faced scops-owl is common in many parts of southern Africa, living in a wide variety of habitats, ranging from Miombo woodland to low thorn scrub. It mostly eats small mammals, with birds and invertebrates making up the remainder of its diet. It uses stick nests made by other birds as nesting sites, sometimes evicting falcons out of their nests, before they have even finished laying their eggs. It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated mainly by the female, with the male doing most of the hunting. The chicks leave the nest at 28 days old for the surrounding bush, and are dependent on their parents for at least 2 weeks more before leaving completely.

Scotopelia peli (Pel's fishing-owl) 

The Pel's fishing owl is restricted to areas surrounding major river systems, such as the Zambezi River and the Okavango Delta. It is generally localized and uncommon, preferring swamps or large tropical rivers surrounded by riverine forest. It feeds almost exclusively on fish, catching them with a similar style to the African fish eagle, but it also occasionally catches young Nile crocodiles! It usually nests in deep cavities in riverine trees, less than 20 metres from the water's edge. Here it lays 2 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for 33-38 days. Of the two chicks only one survives, the other obtains less food from its parents, and usually dies of starvation after a few days. The surviving chick stays in the nest for about 68-70 days, becoming fully independent a few months later.

Strix woodfordii (African wood-owl) 

The African wood-owl occurs across Africa south of the Sahel, occupying a variety of woodland and forest habitats. It mainly eats insects and small birds, but it may also take snakes and small mammals. It usually nests in tree hollows, which it uses repeatedly over multiple breeding seasons, even if it gets flooded with water. It lays 1-3, usually 2 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 31 days, with the male doing all of the hunting. The chicks are intensely cared for for the first week of their lives, after which the female only visits the nest occasionally. They learn to fly when they are about 50-60 days old, becoming fully independent a few months later.

 
 

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