Areena Birders Corner June 2018 -The African Scops Owl

Posted on: June 7, 2018, in Adventure & Fun, News

Focus on the African Scops Owl

Last month we took a look at the largest of the owls that may be observed  in the Areena Riverside Resort, this month we go to the other extreme and discuss the smallest – the African Scops Owl.  To draw a comparison and put things in perspective, this owl is the same size as the Spectacled Weaver.  Sexes are similar in size and weigh only 65g.  They vary in plumage coloration being either grey or a brown/grey with a light greyish front that is lightly streaked with black vertical stripes.  Their tails are very short which is uncommon among the owl species.  Owls use their tails as ‘rudders’ that allow them to change direction very quickly when hunting.  Like most other owls they have ear tufts that can be erected and moved individually allowing them  to locate the source of a noise.  The ear tufts are usually flattened when sleeping or when at rest and will be raised instinctively when alarmed.

Like most owls they are nocturnal and are most active between dusk and dawn.

They are easily identified by their call  – a very loud sound that belies their size –‘kruup’ which is repeated between 5 and 8 seconds.  They are most vocal as dusk  falls with frequent calls between the pair while hunting.  Dawn calls are also made to enable the pair to establish each other’s whereabouts, they do not generally spend the daylight hours together except when breeding.  They are not choosy when it comes to selecting a nest which can be a  hole in the top of a dead tree, a disused Woodpecker nest or even a hole in a rock face or building.  Between 2 and 5 eggs are laid and incubated solely by the female, hatching between 22 – 24days.  During incubation the female relies solely on the male for her food supply.

The chicks stay in the nest for 2 – 3 weeks during which time they become fully feathered resembling the parents.  They leave the nest when they are almost full grown and are dependent on the parents for food for the next 3 – 4 weeks after which time they fend for themselves.

These owls generally forage on the ground with their food consisting mainly of centipedes, woodlice, moths, dragonflies, grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, crickets, cockroaches, spiders, scorpions.  They seldom ‘hawk’ from perches and when they do they will catch small rodents, birds, geckos, skinks and frogs.

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