A large grey owl, 43–50 cm tall, barred in front and blotched on the head, back and wings. Their wingspan is about 1 m. The distinguishing features of the Spotted Eagle-Owl are the prominent tufts of feathers on either side of its head, which it erects into ‘ears’ or ‘horns’, and its bright yellow eyes. The ear tufts are for show and have nothing to do with their ears or hearing. The sexes are alike in colour and size, and the juveniles resemble the adult. Their plumage can be fairly varied, and there is a rare rufous colour form, which is reddish brown, more heavily blotched and has orange eyes.
Spotted Eagle-Owls are nocturnal. They roost during the day, either in trees or among rocks. At sunset they fly out to a perch to hunt. From the perch they scan the ground for movement, using both their eyes and ears to detect it, flying silently in pursuit of whatever suitable prey they see. While roosting they make themselves as inconspicuous as possible, drawing their feathers tightly to their body and closing their eyes to hide any telltale glint and sitting dead still. At dusk they are quite conspicuous, perched in prominent positions and calling.

Spotted eagle-owls are regular bathers and during summer thunderstorms may be seen on tree limbs or on the ground with spread wings.

Scientific name: Bubo africanus

Image: Ranger Jacques Beukes