More than 30 different types of owls in Africa aren’t widely known, and that’s why this guide will enlighten you about them.
Some of these owls found in Africa consume fish. There is proof that owls have been in Africa since the time of the Ancient Egyptians, including mummified skeletons and tomb paintings.
Hieroglyphics from ancient Egypt contain an owl motif. The notion that owls are demon-possessed or are signs of impending death is still prevalent in African culture.
Such views represent some of the biggest conservation obstacles on the continent, and if conservationists are to succeed in their mission, they must confront them and win over the community.
However, there is a long conservation history in other parts of Africa. Below are the different types of owls in Africa that you need to be aware of.
1. African Grass Owl
In savannas and grasslands in Africa, look for this owl species. The African Grass Owl (Tyto capensis) spends a lot of time among weeds and thick grass, as its name suggests. This species has a rather inventive method of building a home.
They make networked tunnels out of trampled grass rather than seeking out trees to perch in.
At the end of the tunnels, female African Grass owls build their nests. Most African Grass Owls’ food sources are rodents and other small mammals. However, they also eat bats, insects, and other tiny birds.
These sly predators hover near the surface as they silently scout for prey and approach it. This species has a white or cream facial disk with a dark rim formed like a heart. Their eyes are black. The back and wings are dark brown or black with pale dots, while the throat is yellow with dark spots.
Adults measure 38 to 43 cm (15 to 17 inches) in height, and their wingspan ranges from 11.1 to 13.6 inches (28 to 34 cm). An African Grass Owl is difficult to notice because it is nocturnal, preferring to hunt at night and spend the day in its grassy home. If you spot one of these types of owls in Africa, you’ll see that this species resembles the barn owl amazingly!
2. Barn Owl
Although Barn Owls (Tyto alba) usually nest in hollow trees, they can also be found in caves, wells, and isolated structures. Since they are nocturnal, they may roost wherever that offers a quiet, dark place for them to rest. Barn owls in Africa consume insects, small birds, frogs, lizards, bats, baby rabbits, small rodents, and small rodents.
With their amazing night vision, they swoop low over the ground in pursuit of prey before stealthily stealing their meal. It’s interesting to note that wild Barn Owls in Africa only live for about two years on average. However, this species can survive up to 20 years in captivity.
The shelter from predators and consistent feeding help most animals live longer in captivity, but the Barn Owl goes above and beyond! Despite being mainly active at night, this species occasionally goes hunting shortly after sunrise or before dusk. Try listening for one instead of trying to find one by sight.
Its noises can be different and recognizable. They communicate through prolonged screeches, distinct, repeating twittering, or low croaks. When startled, the Barn owl can also hiss or rasp.
3. African Scops Owl
The African Scops Owl (Otus senegalensis) lives in woodlands and wooded regions. They sleep in trees during the day and hunt and fly at night. This species can blend in very well, particularly when sleeping. They sit on tree branches with their eyes shut and ear tufts arched, giving the impression that they are an extension of the branch!
This species enjoys eating flies, beetles, and mosquitoes in particular. They hunt by flying down to catch prey on the ground while scanning from a tree. They can scoop flying insects out of the air while they are in flight if they hawk for them, though!
Of all the types of owls in Africa, the African Scops Owl has one of the most distinctive sounds. It communicates by emitting a monotonous, distinctive “prrrp.”
4. Southern White-faced Owl
Southern White-faced Owls (Ptilopsis granti) prefer to reside in meadows and dry woods where they can hunt for small mammals, reptiles, and huge insects. This one is one of just a few African owls that don’t build their own nest. Instead, it breeds and nests in abandoned, empty nests made by other birds.
If larger owls and other raptors give up their nests, Southern White-faced Owls will probably move in. The call of the Southern White-faced Owl is a series of rapid, trilling hoots. It is one of the types of owls in Africa that make numerous repeating nighttime calls. Breeding pairs sing together throughout the breeding season, frequently using short, staccato notes followed by a longer, higher-pitched “hoot.”
5. Cape Eagle Owl
The Cape Eagle Owl (Bubo capensis) inhabits rocky outcrops and meadows in hilly regions. The areas around caves and cracks are where they are most likely to be found since they use rocks to construct their roosting and nesting locations. Cape Eagle Owls are nocturnal, like the majority of owls in Africa.
They roost throughout the daytime in rocky areas close to plants or occasionally in the treetops. Males and females roost together throughout the breeding season. Although it only takes 40 days for young Cape Eagle Owls to reach adulthood, they may spend up to six months in the nest as they develop their hunting and flying skills.
The hoot of the Cape Eagle Owl is loud and has a faint ending in both the male and female, but the female’s song is higher pitched. They alter their pitch to a shorter, more monotonous noise that sounds like a dog barking when they are agitated or alarmed.
6. Spotted Eagle Owl
In Africa, search for Spotted Eagle Owls (Bubo africanus) in rocky areas, densely vegetated areas, or treetops. They are also quite prevalent in cities adjacent to populated regions. This species consumes an extensive range of prey, such as rodents, birds, insects, small mammals, and reptiles.
The Spotted Eagle Owl will completely swallow a small enough prey item. Otherwise, it rips it to pieces. Male Spotted Eagle Owls grow so loyal to their young during the breeding season that they almost always return their prey to the nest. They’ve been known to get hungry while trying to supply enough food!
Spotted Eagle Owls, one of the types of owls in Africa, communicate with one another via hooting. The male typically hoots twice and the female three times. Under pressure, both adults and juveniles hiss and snap their beaks. Owlets can make rasping noises when hungry, and their parents can identify their hatchlings’ rasping.
7. Verreaux’s Eagle Owl
One of the very few owls in Africa without a natural predator is the Verreaux’s Eagle Owl (Bubo lacteus). They take down hedgehogs, rodents, insects, birds, and reptiles, among other small mammals. Due to its nocturnal habits, a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl might be challenging to spot. They make their homes in older trees with broad branches and thick foliage.
These are types of owls in Africa that are also very well camouflaged. They blend in easily with the leaves because their feathers are barred, which gives the impression that they are hazy. This species’ members form close-knit social groups of two parents and their children.
They fight other species members frequently over territory due to their strong territorial instincts. Despite their intimate bonds, the smaller chick frequently starves to death since it is frequently overlooked in favor of the older, larger offspring.
8. Pearl-Spotted Owlet
The tiniest owl in Africa is the Pearl-spotted Owlet (Glaucidium perlatum). Given how small they are, even fully grown adults are referred to as owlets! Even though this species is active during the day and night, it prefers to hunt at night.
The Pearl-spotted Owlet spends much of the day bathing in open water and spends the night in tiny shrubs. One is probably splashing about in a lake, stream, or sizable pond. Crickets and grasshoppers are the main prey items for the Pearl-spotted Owlet. But if such prey species are accessible, they will also pursue lizards, little rodents, bats, snakes, or other tiny birds.
They produce a loud string of quick shrills that slowly build up speed and pitch. The pace and pitch again drop at the end of the scream, with the final two shrills being longer. Pearl-spotted Owlets are also types of owls in Africa that whistle and peep softly to warn their mates when they are in difficulty.
9. African Barred Owlet
The mature forests and woodlands are the favored habitat of the African Barred Owlet (Glaucidium capense). Both the day and the night are lively for them. The African Barred Owlets, like other types of owls in Africa, spend the day hiding from other birds in their natural tree holes.
Although they prefer to hunt at night when they can survey the ground from a perch and snag insects, reptiles, and small animals. Particularly while breeding, this species has a strong sense of territoriality. They will swoop down on intruders while trying to scare them despite their small size, singing to announce their territory.
The brief, even-pitched purrs used by the African Barred Owlet to communicate are called notes. Throughout the night, dawn, and dusk, it cries out.
10. African Wood Owl
Woodford’s owls, sometimes known as African Wood Owls (Strix woodfordii), are found in woodlands and woods. They are nocturnal and pair up to roost in the thick tree foliage. You would, however, have a difficult time locating one of these medium-sized types of owls in Africa due to their nocturnal habits and camouflage.
The female lays one to three eggs in a hollow tree during their mating season, which lasts from July to October. Since incubation begins as soon as the first egg is placed, if there is a food scarcity, the oldest and largest hatchling will occasionally eat its smaller siblings.
Sometimes young hatchlings remain in the nest with their parents until the following mating season. It’s interesting to note that African Wood Owls sing duets, usually in breeding pairs, between the sexes.
11. Marsh Owl
The Marsh Owl (Asio capensis) spends most of its time in marshlands, living up to its name. But it can also be found in short brush and open grassland. If their habitat becomes extremely dry, they leave their nests and move to moister locations.
At the end of the rainy season, marsh owls, also types of owls in Africa, build their ground nests. They have lifelong monogamous relationships. Despite their tendency to be fairly territorial, breeding birds frequently coexist in large colonies near one another.
Despite being mostly nocturnal, Marsh Owls can also be observed during morning and twilight. Either alone or in pairs, look for them when they are out hunting. Small rodents, insects, and reptiles make up their diet, which they find by swooping low over the grass.
12. Pharaoh Eagle-Owl
The Pharaoh Eagle Owl (Bubo ascalaphus) prefers large, wide areas with rocky outcrops as a habitat. In clefts in the rock, they construct their nests from grasses and other plant materials. Around sunset, when the Pharaoh Eagle-owl begins its meal search, is when you have the best chance of seeing one.
In addition to insects, occasionally, they catch small mammals, birds, snakes, and reptiles. They sit on a high rock or branch, listening and watching for any movement on the ground to locate their prey. They are types of owls in Africa you should know about too.
Watch for a low-pitched call that alternates every four to five seconds and sounds like “hoo-ahh.” They utilize their calls to promote their territory and for courting. This species has an orange-yellow color for the eyes, a black beak with a strong contour, and short ear tufts.
13. Little Owl
The Little Owl (Athene noctua) is a diminutive owl that is only found in warm areas of Africa. They live in various settings, such as dunes, semi-deserts, and woods. They can coexist with people and nest in barns, parks, and hedges. You have a decent chance of seeing one because, in contrast to most owls in Africa, this species is active during the day.
It hunts by perching on trees and scanning the ground for motion. They swoop down and seize anything with their talons once they spot it. Because this species frequently stores food for later, you might also spot a Little Owl bringing its meal to a hollow tree.
The Little Owl primarily communicates by a brief, evenly-pitched call with a cat-like quality. However, they are also types of owls in Africa that communicate through whistling in various ways. They can identify other people by their voices, which is helpful when territorial disputes occur. To prevent a quarrel, nearby Little Owls will call out in greeting.
14. Desert Owl
The Desert Tawny Owl, another name for the Desert Owl (Strix hadorami), inhabits rocky terrain, semi-deserts, and palm groves. They build their nests in tiny cracks and openings in cliff faces and rock formations. This owl is one of the most difficult to identify because it hunts at night and is quite stealthy.
They are types of owls in Africa that fly silently and with little noise after they have focused on their prey. Their dusky gray-brown color makes them the ideal desert camouflage against the sand. If you’re familiar with the Eurasian Collared Dove, the Desert Owl’s call could confuse you because they sound so similar! The call of this African owl is “hooo-hoo-hoo-hoo,” and it sings with an eerie, melancholy tone.
15. Long-Eared Owl
Their huge, upright ear tufts are the Long-eared Owl’s most distinctive feature in Africa. The ears are also asymmetrical, with one ear being higher on the head than the other. This allows the bird to hear sounds above and below its current location.
Long-eared Owls (Asio otus) can be found in open spaces, taigas, swamps, cemeteries, gardens, and even open places in towns and villages. As a result, it’s common to witness them hunting at night in crowded areas. The hunt for this species is broken up into phases; it begins before midnight, pauses, and then resumes soon before sunrise.
They hover softly over the ground while keeping an ear out for their prey. When hunting, long-eared owls rely more on their hearing than their vision. The male Long-eared Owl’s deep whoop, repeated every few seconds and gradually getting higher in pitch, is its call.
During the breeding season, females respond to males by hooting at a lesser volume. Also capable of making cat-like noises are both sexes.
16. Short-Eared Owl
Short-eared Owls (Asio flammeus) migrate partly, with northern birds traveling south during the colder months. They are one of the different types of owls in Africa you should know. Interestingly, if there is a lack of prey in one region, they frequently move in search of it.
The intriguing ability of short-eared owls to imitate broken or wounded wings to deter predators from their nests is amazing. Although aquatic birds are more likely to engage in this behavior, this owl does so successfully. Try listening for one of the Short-eared Owls’ distinctive calls in Africa instead of trying to spot one.
One of their most distinctive features is the uneven wing beats of short-eared owls, which might resemble bat or moth movement during flight. You may recognize the Short-eared Owl by listening to its speech in addition to its wingbeats. It makes sounds that sound like barks, such as “waowk, waowk, waowk” or “toot, toot, toot.” They make a loud “eeeee-yerp” sound when mating.
17. Maghreb Owl
The earless Maghreb Owl (Strix mauritanica) inhabits rocky terrain and woods. They can be found from sea level to high mountain ranges because they don’t have a predisposition for a particular elevation. It is nearly tough to locate a Maghreb owl in the wild. It is only active at night and is quite frightening to people.
Maghreb Owls hide out amid dense tree cover during the day and go into open spaces at night to hunt. They eat mostly birds, reptiles, amphibians, and small mammals. The Maghreb owls are on our list of the various types of owls in Africa and can be heard hooting “kee-wik” throughout the night.
18. Northern White-Faced Owl
North American White-faced (Ptilopsis leucotis) is one of the different types of owls in Africa, and it roosts during the daytime in tree trunks or dense tree foliage. It prefers to remain in dry, open woods, woodlands, and savannas with prickly trees. This species hunts largely in the middle of the night because it is nocturnal and avoids both the day and the hours of dawn and dusk.
They swoop down on their prey, which they normally swallow whole while hunting from a perch. The primary defense mechanism of the Northern White-faced Owl is remarkable. These owls puff out their feathers and wings to appear larger than they actually are when they perceive a threat. The predator will, however, pull its feathers in to make itself appear even smaller if the prey is substantially larger than it is.
19. Greyish Eagle Owl
Open savannahs and arid, stony deserts in Africa are where you can find the Greyish Eagle Owl (Bubo cinerascens). They spend the daytime in rocky outcrops, bushes, tree foliage, or abandoned man-made buildings like barns and outbuildings. Large insects and spiders make up its food.
The Greyish Eagle hunts at night, sitting on a perch and watching for its prey to approach. Occasionally, this species will glide through the air and “hawk” flying insects! The face disk of this species is a medium brown with a dark border. Its beak is gray, and its eyes are dark brown.
The underside is white to pale cream, and the back and wings are brown with cream speckling. The wingspan of an adult is between 11 and 13 inches, or around 17 inches (43 cm) long (28 to 33 cm). Our list of the types of owls in Africa is not complete without the Greyish Eagle-owl.
20. Madagascar Red Owl
The entirely nocturnal Madagascar Red Owl (Tyto soumagnei) spends the daytime in hollow tree trunks, caverns, or abandoned man-made constructions. It is frequently observed in the steamy, muggy jungles of western Madagascar. A Madagascar Red Owl hunts in forest borders and rice fields, primarily searching for small rodents and insects, and is most frequently found in Africa.
The screech Madagascar Red Owls uses to communicate is a loud, descending hiss. They make a “wok-wok-wok” sound when startled. The deep black eyes and highly noticeable white facial disk of this species are both outlined in brown. There are no ear tufts on it.
It has a rusty, reddish-brown overall appearance with a white neck and dark patches on the shoulders. Compared to other types of owls in Africa, they are 11 inches tall for adults.
21. Madagascar Owl
The west and center of the island, typically in drier forested areas, are home to the Madagascar Owl (Asio madagascariensis), an endemic bird to Madagascar. It’s interesting to note that some evidence links the Madagascar Owl to the Long-eared Owl found in Africa. However, due to its isolation on the island, it has acquired several characteristics unique to the people of Madagascar.
This species spends the day roosting in deep tree foliage and is nocturnal. It hunts insects, small mammals (particularly rodents), birds, insects, and occasionally bats at night. The Madagascar Owl makes a variety of pitches and volumes of bark-like sounds. The call can occasionally sound like a “ulooh” hoot. This ends our list of the different types of owls in Africa.
Africa is known for its wide variety of wildlife, and owls are no exception! Owls are fascinating and mysterious creatures and can be found in many different regions across the continent.
In this guide, we explored the types of owls in Africa, as well as the habitats they inhabit. Each species has its own unique set of characteristics and behaviors that make them special. We are sure you will be satisfied!