Strix woodfordii (African wood-owl) 

Bosuil [Afrikaans]; Ibengwana [Xhosa]; uMabhengwane, uNobathekeli [Zulu]; Kakuru (also applied to other owl species) [Kwangali]; Zizi (generic name for owl) [Shona]; Mankhudu (also applied to Pearl-spotted owlet) [Tsonga]; Lerubisana (applied to a number of other owl species) [Tswana]; Afrikaanse bosuil [Dutch]; Chouette africaine [French]; Woodfordkauz [German]; Coruja-da-floresta [Portuguese]

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Strix woodfordii (African wood-owl)  

African wood-owl. [photo Jim Scarff ]

 

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.

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across Africa south of the Sahel, absent from areas of Somalia and Tanzania. In southern Africa, it is locally common in the Caprivi Strip (Namibia), northern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and eastern and southern South Africa. It can occupy almost any type of dense forest, such as deciduous woodland, thick coastal bush and riparian or evergreen forest, but it is also common in suburban gardens and parks.

Distribution of African wood-owls 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.  

Predators and parasites

Food 

Mainly eats insects and small birds, but it may catch take snakes and small mammals. It usually hunts from a low perch, listening for any sound that might indicate the presence of an animal. Once it hears or sees something, it swoops down to the ground, grabbing its prey before returning to the perch. It also catches bats or insects in flight, and occasionally gleans insects from branches or leaves.

Breeding

  • It usually nests in tree cavities, anywhere from 1-30 metres above ground; it also uses hollows in the ground among tree roots. It uses the same nest repeatedly over multiple breeding seasons, even if it gets flooded with water.
  • Egg-laying season is from August-September, occasionally in other months.
  • It lays 1-3, usually two eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 31 days, with the male doing all of the hunting.
  • The chicks are cared for by both parents for the first week of their lives, after which the female only visits the nest occasionally. The chicks stay in the nest for about 30-37 days, leaving before they can fly. They scramble around the surrounding bush for about three more weeks, at which point they fledge, but they still remain dependent on their parents for about four more months.

Threats

Not threatened, in fact its range has been increasing recently, largely due to the abundance of wooded suburban gardens and parks.

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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