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Trophic Level IV: Large Carnivores
Verreaux’s Eagle Owl
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Click to enlarge!Turn to Previous Page  Bubo lacteuus

Length: 65 cm (26")

Status: Common

Habitat: Verreaux’s eagle owl is seldom found above 2 000 meters (6,562 feet) altitude. They are typically found along well wooded streams, rivers and lake shores. Any area with large trees could support this owl. It can even survive in towns and cities, provided there are sufficient stands of trees.

Food: Verreaux’s eagle owl eats small mammals (hares, dwarf mongooses, grass rats, vervet monkeys), birds, snakes, monitor lizards, toads, fish and insects. In cities, they feed on rats and pigeons.

Studies done in South Africa noted that this owl also feeds on other smaller owls. They are also one of the few birds of prey to feed on hedgehogs.

During the day, Verreaux's eagle owls are light sleepers and will drop on any prey that happens to come by their roost.

Click to enlarge!Social System/Behavior: During the day, these owls roost high up in tall trees where they are very difficult to spot. If ravens or other birds find them, they will mob the owl. Although mobbing is no real threat to the owl’s health, the constant dive bombing by these other birds does annoy the owl.

Roosting sites are usually close to the owl's nest. These birds are territorial and do not leave the area even when not nesting. The nest itself could be an abandoned nest of a vulture, eagle or hammerkop. Any large stick nest suits this species’ needs.

It is not unusual for eagle owls to nest on top of a hammerkop's nest while the hammerkop is nesting inside it.

Verreaux's eagle owls begin courting about two months before the female lays her eggs. The pair call together, starting just before sunset. Their low, grunting, pig-like "huunn" calls can be heard for up to 5 kilometers (3 miles). This calling alerts other owls to the presence of the breeding pair and lets them know that the territory is occupied.

The female lays two eggs which she incubates. The male must feed her. When she is hungry, she wails, letting him know she wants food.

Unless food is abundant, only one of the two owlets will survive. The female lays the eggs a day or so apart and begins to incubate them immediately. As a result, the owlets hatch a day apart. It is normally the first to hatch that survives.

This may seem cruel and wasteful, but is ecologically sound management on the part of owls and other birds whose young hatch a day apart. If something happens to the first egg, there is a second egg to back it up. If food is abundant then both will survive and both owlets will have a reasonable chance of finding food once they fledge.

However, if the parents were to feed both owlets equally, it is unlikely that either would survive in anything but a bumper year for prey.

Young from last year's nesting will help raise the current brood.

Predators: Very few species prey on this owl. It is at the top of the nighttime food chain and occupies the same niche as the martial eagle and other large hawks and eagles. Turn to Next Page


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Dave Taylor's African Safari - Book 5: Trophic Level IV: Large Carnivores (Standard Version)
Copyright © 1999 Dave Taylor & James Cash