Southern White-faced Owl
20 - 28cm
65 - 71cm
185 - 275g
The southern white-faced owl is a small owl in the “true owl” family Strigidae. It was once known as the white-faced scops owl together with the northern white-faced owl, but they have since been split into two distinct species. They each occur separately in the south and north of Africa, respectively.
Compared with the browner northern white-faced owl, they are largely a uniform grey in colouration, particularly on the upperparts which also feature dark streaks throughout. The grey colouration fades away into whitish underparts but these also have subtle black streaking. The facial disc is a brighter white with a thick black border framing its bright red eyes.
What Does it Look Like?
What Does it Sound Like?
The call begins with a build-up of stirring notes followed by a purposeful, drawn out “whhhhhhhu-hooh” hoot, with the last part often being slightly pitched upwards. It can usually be heard at night, and is repeated several seconds apart. It is thought that the call of the northern white-faced owl differs in that it uses extra notes, but more research is needed.
Their small size is better suited to hunting insects and other larger invertebrates such as spiders and scorpions. However, they can take smaller mammals and birds when the opportunity arises, as their talons are still deceptively powerful. This owl hunts by swooping from perch to perch, plucking prey from the ground.
What Does it Eat?
Where Does it Nest?
They look for natural features such as the forks of branches or holes in tree trunks, normally taking the disused nest of another bird. The clutch size is 2-3 eggs, which are incubated by the female for around one month each whilst the male provides the food. The chicks are fledged at just 4 weeks old, but will stay close to their parents for a number of weeks after.
A line from Gabon into Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Kenya broadly splits the northern and southern white-faced owls, with this species being found south of this line as far as the northern tip of South Africa. It can be found inhabiting savanna where scattered trees are available, but also ventures into dry, open woodland.
Where Does it Live?
What is its Status?
Although it was split from the northern white-faced owl, both species appear to be poorly understood besides their individual ranges. There are no official population estimates, but it is thought to be common-to-uncommon locally with no notable threats identified. Additionally, they already occur naturally in areas with protected status.
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