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Verreaux's Eagle Owl

Bubo lacteus

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58 - 66cm

1.4 - 1.6m

1.6 - 3.1kg

16 - 20 yrs

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The Verreaux’s eagle owl is a member of the family Strigidae named for the French naturalist Jules Verreaux. It is sometimes known as the milky eagle owl or giant eagle owl. Not only is it the largest African owl, it is also ranked 4th in both length and weight out of all known owl species, just below the Eurasian eagle owl.

Least Concern

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LC

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It is mostly a pale grey with fine brownish areas on the underside, becoming darker on it wings. Its facial disc is whiter in colour with strong black borders and their ear tufts are small and blunt. Its most defining feature is its pink eyelids, unique to this species and thought to replace the yellow and orange eyes of other eagle owls.

What Does it Look Like?

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What Does it Sound Like?

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The male’s song is a series of “gwok” sounds considered the second-deepest bird call after the southern ground hornbill. On quiet nights, it is said to travel up to 3 miles away. The female’s call is similar but higher pitched due to their smaller syrinx. Their alarm call is a “whok” or “hook” sound, although grunts or raspy screams seem to also serve this purpose.

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They appear to be the only African predator to actively hunt hedgehogs, which make up a large portion of their diet. The owl descends silently and aims for the face, before skinning the hedgehog’s back to remove the spines. The rest of their diet is varied based on availability, and includes rodents, birds, reptiles and even some primate species.

What Does it Eat?

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Where Does it Nest?

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An old stick nest built by another bird – generally a hamerkop - is used. Exactly two white eggs are laid around 1 week apart; as a result, the second chick usually dies with the stronger one being raised alone. The male feeds both mother and chick during the brooding period. After around 60 days, the chick leaves the nest, but will not fly for another 1-2 months.

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It can be found throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa except the deepest rainforests, making their distribution in the west rather pocketed. They prefer dry, semi-desert areas such as savanna with scattered vegetation, although they can be found in small, open woodland. The bushveld in southern Africa appears to provide an ideal habitat.

Where Does it Live?

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What is its Status?

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It is seldom-seen and therefore largely misunderstood by those who persecute it, believing it to pose a threat to livestock. Additionally, it is indirectly affected by poison left by farmers intended to control jackals. However, it has adapted to suburban areas with greater success than other large birds of prey and has a firm foothold in the east, particularly Kenya.

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