Garden birds of Alberton: Spotted Eagle Owl

EAGLE OF THE NIGHT: The Spotted Eagle owl waking up for its nightly foraging. Photo credit: Mariska Cilliers

DID YOU KNOW? The spotted eagle owl is a large night predator that can commonly be seen perched on street lamps around Alberton.

The spotted eagle owl is a large grey-brown owl. The owl reaches sizes of up to 45cm and has finely barred underparts. The owl’s large eyes are pale yellow in colour, something that distinguishes it from other similar owls that can be seen in the area. It is, however, the most common owl in the area.

The characteristic traits the spotted eagle owl shares with all eagle owls are the ear tufts the owl raises above its eyes. Contrary to popular belief these tufts have nothing to do with the owl’s hearing but are rather used for display purposes.

Spotted eagle owls are nocturnal. During the day the owl can be seen perched on ledges or in thick foliage. When night time comes the owl starts hunting. Spotted eagle owls are opportunistic predators that target various small animals throughout the night. Prey items include mice, rats, lizards, birds, insects, frogs and even snakes.

A favoured hunting method for city owls is using a lamppost as a hunting perch. The light hides the owl from below while giving it a perfect view of prey moving into the light. This creates a dangerous situation for the owls however as they sometimes find themselves stunned by car headlights and then run over by motorists.People wanting to attract owls to their garden could use an old basket to create a nesting spot in a tree. Lining the basket with pine needles creates bedding for the chicks. Owls love nesting in baskets as the small spaces between the weaving lets them see around them while still keeping them hidden. The resident owls will be more than happy to help keep your home pest free.

*Sources: National Zoological Gardens of South Africa, South African National Biodiversity Institute, Newsman’s Birds of Southern Africa and Wikipedia.

Also read:

Garden birds of Alberton: Masked Weaver

Mindful kids: Five dogs that love kids

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Roedolf Walker

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