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Spotted eagle-owl (Bubo africanus)

2 November 2016



Physical description

Adult spotted eagle-owl sexes are similar in appearance. Female slightly larger than male with height of around 47 cm and mass of around 700 g. Upper parts are grey to grey-brown with fine, white worm-like patches and spots. The tail has broad, dark grey and white bars, throat is white.

Large, dark spots on the sides of the breast, a characteristic semicircular black ring behind each eye and black ear edges. The bill is black, the feathered legs are white, the feet are grey-brown and the eyes are bright yellow. The similar Cape eagle-owl Bubo capensis has orange and not yellow eyes.

Spotted eagle-owl size versus a human

Spotted eagle-owl print



www.leopard.tvArea and habitat

Solitary but sedentary residents although juveniles will disperse as far as 695 km in extreme cases. Habitat choice is cosmopolitan and ranges from rocky outcrops and drainage lines in the western arid regions to forest margins and grasslands in the wetter eastern regions. Most abundant in open scrubland and grassland which have low rocky ridges and trees in which to roost and nest. Often nests in open areas, on the ground and even in disused aardvark burrows.




Prey animals are usually caught after gliding gradually from a perch but the spotted eagle-owl will make fast dashes into foliage to snatch roosting animals at night. Most hunting occurs at dusk or after dark. It drinks water and bathes regularly where water is available and often carries ticks.



Feeds on a wide variety of birds, smaller mammals such as hares, bushbabies, fruit bats, mole-rats, mice, rats, shrews, reptiles such as lizards an snakes, invertebrates such as insects and arachnids (spiders and scorpions), fishes and even carrion. The diet varies with the season and between individuals.

Adult female weight: 700 g
Adult female height: 47 cm
Life expectancy in the wild: 10 years


Can breed before it is a 1 year old and is usually monogamous (one mate) but occasionally polygynous (several mates). However, adjacent nests are only some 500 m or so apart. An adult female will occupy the same territory for up to 21 years as opposed to 13 years by an adult male. Copulation occurs on the ground or in a tree. The nest is a simple scrape with a diameter of 300 mm on flat ground. Eggs are laid in any month of the year except March. Up to 6, but usually 2 to 3, rounded, oval, white eggs are laid at intervals. Consequently the chicks hatch in the same intervals in which the eggs are laid after an incubation period of 29 to 33 days. The male feeds the female on the nest. Newly hatched chicks are covered in white down and have closed eyes. Eyes open when the chicks are 7 days old. The young birds leave the nest when they are 30 to 38 days.


A shortage of prey, electrical wires and traffic pose the greatest risks for the spotted eagle-owl.

Read the full article written by Prof J du P Bothma.



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