Otus senegalensis - The African Scops Owl

The African scops owl is a common, sometimes abundant, resident of savannah woodlands. It is very small in comparison to other owls and raptors, reaching an average length of only 15 to 19 centimetres. They usually have a grey-brown colouring, but can also be speckled with rufous or a more vivid brown. The streaks and mottles on their feathers help them to stay camouflaged in their savannah environment.

The African scops owl is fully nocturnal and mostly insectivorous. Thanks to its scrub and bush habitat, it often uses ground nest sites for breeding.

Did you know? The smallest owl species in Africa, the Scops Owl is extremely camouflaged, looking just like a piece of twig.

The facial disk is grey with a narrow black outline, and the beautiful eyes are yellow. Little ear tufts will rise up from the head when the bird is disturbed to help it to locate the source of the sound. The bill is black. Its call is a monotonous, trembling "prrrp".

Size

Range mass: 45 to 100 g.
Range length: 16 to 19 cm.
Range wingspan: 117 to 144 mm.

Habitat

The African scops owl's primary habitat is woodland and a wide range of mixed bushveld. It can also be found in gardens and mangroves. In savannah woodlands, the trees and shrubs form a light canopy, but there is always plenty of light and air that penetrate it.

Distribution

The African scops owl is a small owl endemic to sub-Saharan Africa.

In South Africa it can be found at the Blouberg Nature Reserve near Musina and Louis Trichardt, Kloofendal Nature Reserve in Johannesburg, Vaalkop Dam near Sun City, and Chelmsford Nature Reserve which is about 70 kilometres from Ladysmith in KwaZulu Natal.

Diet

The African scops owl dines on moths, beetles, grasshoppers, and other little insects. Sometimes, it will also hunt scorpions, spiders and even small birds and rodents, when the opportunity arises. They may grab these on the ground, or scoop mid-air to capture them in flight.

Socialisation

The nocturnal African scops owl pairs may sometimes roost close to one another, or even in a loose colony. But, they are relatively non-territorial, so their nests may be in relatively close proximity to one another with no socialisation issues. During the day, it roosts in the trees, usually keeping absolutely still with closed eyes and raised ear tufts to enhance its camouflage. At night, the male and female may call to one another in a pretty duet.

Communication

Their call is a series of low, hollow dove-like notes that make a repetitive "prrrp" or "kurr" sound. They call every few seconds.

Reproduction

The female owl will lay between four and six eggs on the floor of a tree cavity. She will sit on the shiny white eggs to keep them warm, while the male will hunt for food, which he brings back to the nest for her to eat. Once the eggs hatch, he will continue to supply the food, which the female will then feed to the young. The owlets move to other branches at around 28 days, and fledge at around 30 days of age.

The owlets get their full adult plumage between 40 and 80 days old and will reach sexual maturity at around eight months.

Incubation

Incubation of the eggs takes 27 days.

Life Expectancy

10 to 30 years. (To be confirmed).

Predators

Hornbills have been known to kill the scops owl and their young with the intention of using their nesting boxes.

References

Krugerpark; The Owl Pages; Planet of Birds.

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Conservation Status
African Scops Owl
Least
concern
Kruger Park's Big 6 Birds

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