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

[= Otus leucotis

Witwanguil [Afrikaans]; uMandubulu [Zulu]; Kakuru (also applied to other owl species) [Kwangali]; Zizi (generic name for owl) [Shona]; Kurkurtavoni [Tsonga]; Lerubisana (applied to a number of other owl species) [Tswana]; Witwangdwergooruil [Dutch]; Petit-duc de Grant [French]; Weißgesicht-ohreule [German]; Mocho-de-faces-brancas [Portuguese]

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Ptilopsis granti (Southern white-faced scops-owl, White-faced owl)  Ptilopsis granti (Southern white-faced scops-owl, White-faced owl) 
Southern white-faced scops-owl, Kgalagadi National Park, South Africa. [photo Johan van Rensburg ©] Southern white-faced scops-owl. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

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.

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in sub-Equatorial Africa, from southern DRC and Tanzania to Zambia, Angola, Malawi and southern Africa. Within southern Africa it is locally common in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and north-eastern South Africa, occupying a wide variety of habitats. It is most common in areas with scattered thorn trees and scarce patches of ground cover, but it also occurs in suburban gardens, grassland and semi-desert scrub, typically near watercourses or alien tree stands.

Distribution of Southern white-faced scops-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.  


It hunts by flying from perch to perch, trying to locate prey. Once prey is spotted, it descends to the ground to pluck the animal up with its talons. In one study on the proportion of food items in its diet, it ate 81% small mammals, 14% insects and 4% birds. The following species have been recorded in its diet:


  • It usually nests in stick nests made by other birds, sometimes evicting raptors (eg. Shikra, Gabar goshawk, Ovambo sparrowhawk) before they have even laid all their eggs! It also nests in natural cavities in trees.
Ptilopsis granti (Southern white-faced scops-owl, White-faced owl)   

Southern white-faced owl nest, Sericea farm, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season is mainly from August to November, exceptionally in February and May.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated mainly by the female for 30 days, while the male does most of the hunting.
  • The chicks are are fed only by the male for about two weeks, after which both sexes do the hunting. The brood leave the nest for the surrounding bush when they are 28 days old, and can fly 2-5 days later. They are dependent on their parents for at least two weeks after leaving the nest.


Not threatened.


  • 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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