Spotted eagle-owls are medium-sized birds that have a distinctive appearance with prominent ‘ear tufts’ on the tops of their heads which all eagle owls have. The facial disk is off white to pale ochre and their eyes are yellow. The upper body is dusky brown in color while the lower parts are off-white with brown bars.
Spotted eagle-owls are found in Sub-Saharan Africa from Kenya and Uganda south to the Western Cape in South Africa. They also occur in Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Yemen. These birds live in various habitats including dry forests, woodlands, savannahs and grasslands, shrublands, semi-deserts and rocky hills.
Spotted eagle-owls are generally solitary birds. During the day they roost in trees, rock crevices, caves, under bushes, or sometimes even in abandoned burrows. Pairs may sometimes roost together, engaging in mutual preening. Spotted eagle-owls are nocturnal hunters; they usually hunt by swooping down toward the prey and either catch it directly or pursue it on foot. An adult pair is typically very aggressive in defense of its hunting territory. When the female cannot leave the nest the male will hunt and bring her food. Sometimes, even in conditions verging on starvation, he will tear the head off a mouse, but bring the body for the female to feed to the young, or to eat herself if the eggs have not yet hatched. Spotted eagle-owls communicate vocally. Their calls are generally typical, musical eagle-owl hoots. Generally the male call with two hoots: "Hooo hooopoooo" and the female answers with three, with less stress on the middle note: "Hooo hoo hooo". The young do not hoot till effectively adult, but from a very young age, they will hiss threateningly and snap their beaks castanet-like if alarmed. In a comfortable social situation, the owlets have a soft croaking "kreeep" that they repeat for a few seconds.
Spotted eagle-owls are monogamous and pairs mate for life. Breeding begins in July continuing to the first weeks of February. The pair constructs a nest, usually on the ground, hidden in the grass, amongst rocks, or under a bush. The female lays two to four eggs and does the incubation, leaving the nest only to eat what the male has brought for food. The incubation period lasts approximately 32 days. Upon hatching, owlets are blind and will open their eyes 7 days later. Owlets start to leave the nest and wondering around when they are 4-6 weeks old and will able to fly at 7 weeks. They usually remain with parents for another 5 weeks and become reproductively mature one year after fledging.
Electric wires and shortage of suitable prey in populated areas are major threats to Spotted eagle-owls, particularly to fledglings. These birds also suffer from road mortality as they often hunt near roads.
The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Spotted eagle-owl total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.