Spotted Eagle-Owl

Spotted Eagle-Owl

African spotted eagle-owl, African eagle-owl

Bubo africanus
Population size
Life Span
10-20 yrs
454-907 g
45 cm
100-140 cm

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.

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

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.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Spotted eagle-owls have a carnivorous diet and feed on small mammals, birds, insects, frogs, and reptiles.

Mating Habits

32 days
12 weeks
owlet, fledgling
2-4 eggs

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.


Population threats

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.

Population number

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.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Owls have 14 bones in their necks; this allows the birds to rotate their necks 270 degrees. In comparison, humans have only 7.
  • Spotted eagle-owls often re-use their nesting sites for many years and some breeding pairs have been known to use their nests within 40 years.
  • When Spotted eagle-owl chicks hatch their eyes are grey in color and within two weeks gradually become yellow.
  • Spotted eagle-owls enjoy bathing and during summer thunderstorms may be seen on tree limbs or on the ground with spread wings.
  • When Spotted eagle-owls hoot, they generally do this in a threatening attitude with head down and wings spread sideways to present their upper surfaces forward, umbrella-like. They might present such behavior either as a challenge to rival owls or when defending a nest or young against enemies.


1. Spotted Eagle-Owl on Wikipedia -
2. Spotted Eagle-Owl on The IUCN Red List site -

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