The first wild owl I ever saw was an African Spotted Eagle Owl! This was because last year, just before I stared working for the World Owl Trust, I spent time in South Africa on wildlife conservation work, mainly with lions. Throughout the 2½ months I was there, I saw several different owls but the one I saw the most was the African Spotted Eagle Owl.
Shortly after I started work at the Owl Centre, a pair of African Spotted Eagle Owls arrived. They were born in 2005 at another collection, Furness Owls of Barrow-in-Furness and they came to us on 12 July 2007.
Furness Owls had imported two pairs of captive bred African Spotted Eagle Owls from a breeder in South Africa. When both pairs bred successfully, it was possible for an unrelated pair of youngsters to come to the Owl Centre. Being unrelated to most of the British population of these owls, it will be possible to avoid inbreeding and its associated problems.
The African Spotted Eagle Owl is the most common and familiar owl in South-East Africa. They live in a variety of habitats from open woodland, savannah, riverine woods with rocky hills or stony slopes to desert and cultivated parkland but they avoid dense rainforest.
This eagle owl lacks the size and strength of other eagle owls, only being about 45cm in height. Their upperparts are dusky-brown with whitish spots. Below, they are greyish-brown to creamy-white with dark barring. They have long prominent ear tufts, yellow eyes and a grey facial disk which is rimmed in black. They are mainly nocturnal but sometimes hunt before sunset or during the day and will take a variety of food including beetles, spiders and scorpions but will also eat small mammals, birds and reptiles.
Pairs mate for life and usually lay 2 to 4 eggs in a wide variety of places including rocky ledges, steep banks, amongst boulders or on buildings. It has a widespread and common distribution.
With our pair, we experimented with nest sites. We gave them a nest tray as well as a nest box to see which they preferred. The female chose the nest box and on the 18 February 2008 she started nesting. Around 19 March, her eggs hatched and it could be seen that she had two owlets. Our Collection Manager and Head Keeper saw them first but it was a while before the rest of the keepers saw them as mum was very good at hiding them. After a very strange and excited radio call from our Senior Keeper, we all rushed round to their aviary and we finally saw them. They were really cute bundles of fluff peering from around mum’s wing. It was a long time before we got any pictures of the owlets but as they got bigger, it was harder for mum to hide them and I eventually got the picture you see.
So far these owls are doing very well and are both good parents, so there are high hopes for them in the future.Vicky Lane
|World Owl Trust
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The World Owl Trust is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA). The Trust relies on a dedicated membership, visitors, donations and legacies.