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the web of life in southern Africa

Bubo africanus (Spotted eagle-owl) 

Gevlekte ooruil [Afrikaans]; Ifubesi (also applied to Verreaux's eagle owl), Isihulu-hulu [Xhosa]; isiKhovampondo (also applied to Cape eagle owl) [Zulu]; Editika (generic term for eagle owl) [Kwangali]; Makhohlo, Morubisi, Sehihi, Sephooko [South Sotho]; Sikhova [Swazi]; Xiyinha [Tsonga]; Makgotlwę, Mophoę, Morubise (these terms also applied to Verreaux's eagle-owl) [Tswana]; Afrikaanse oehoe [Dutch]; Grand-duc africain [French]; Fleckenuhu, Berguhu [German]; Bufo-malhado [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Strigiformes > Family: Strigidae

Bubo africanus (Spotted eagle-owl)  Bubo africanus (Spotted eagle-owl) 

Spotted eagle-owl juvenile. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

Spotted eagle-owl. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

Bubo africanus (Spotted eagle-owl)  Bubo africanus (Spotted eagle-owl) 

Spotted eagle-owl, Potchefstroom, South Africa. [both photos Peet van Schalkwyk ©, see also scienceanimations.com]

The Spotted eagle-owl is a familiar bird in many parts of southern Africa, and lives in a wide range of habitats. It has an extremely varied diet, eating anything from poisonous snakes and carrion to falcons and insects. It breeds in most months in the year, nesting in a variety of different places. There are usually 2-3 chicks in one brood, up to 6 chicks in good years. Juveniles are only fully independent 4 months after leaving the nest.

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across sub-Equatorial Africa in most habitats, excluding sandy deserts and high grassland. It is most prolific in open scrub and low grassland, so long as it has suitable roost sites. It has also adapted to living with humans, occurring in many towns and cities in southern Africa, roosting in buildings and trees and using streetlights as perches.

Distribution of Spotted eagle-owl in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites


It has an extremely varied diet - over 60 species have been recorded as prey. It mainly hunts at night, only rarely coming out in the day to follow Honey badgers to bee's nests. The type of food it eats varies greatly between different areas and habitats, although rodents, small birds and shrews typically form the bulk of it's diet. The following prey items have been recorded in its diet.


  • Uses a wide variety of nest sites; in one study, 61% used shallow holes/crevasses in the ground, 26% nested in trees or tree stumps and the remaining 13% nested in buildings. It sometimes has to compete with Egyptian geese for nesting sites.
Bubo africanus (Spotted eagle-owl)   

Spotted eagle-owl nest with eggs, Settlers, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season is almost year-round, peaking from August-December.
  • There are usually 2-3 eggs in one clutch, laid at 1-4 day intervals, although it can be as a high as six eggs in good years.
  • Incubation is done solely by the female, while the male brings food to the nest. Incubation starts with the first egg laid and continues for 29-33 days.
  • In nests on the ground the chicks leave the nest 30-38 days after hatching, but in raised nests, they only leave the nest after 40-42 days. The juveniles stay around the nest for 6-8 weeks, while learning to hunt. They become fully independent at about four months old.


Not threatened, in fact common in large areas of southern Africa.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.