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Published: 13 Oct 2017

Gevlekte Ooruil/Spotted Eagle-owl

Die Gevlekte ooruil is ‘n roofvoël van mediumgrootte met die kenmerkende “oortjies” van ‘n ooruil en groot geel oë. Hulle is die kleinste van die ooruilspesies. Hierdie uile is die mees algemene uil wat in ‘n groot verskeidenheid van habitatte voorkom – hulle het goed aangepas by die mens en is algemeen in beboude gebiede en in menslike nedersettings.  Hierdie spesie is van mediumgrootte met die kenmerkende “ore” van die groep ooruile. In werklikheid is dit verepluise wat so regop staan – die uil se ore is onder die verekleed bedek en laer af langs die kop. Hulle word tussen 43 en 47 cm groot en kan tot 700g weeg. Die mannetjie is effe groter as die wyfie – verder is daar geen geslagsdimorfie nie. Die bek en neusvrat is swart en die vere op hulle bene is wit. Hierdie uilspesie se pote is grys-bruin.[2] Daar is twee kleurvariasies in hierdie spesie. Die normale vorm is grys op die bokant met ylverspreide wit vlekke op die vlerke. Aan die onderkant is hulle wit, met fyn grys strepies wat ook op die bene en pote sigbaar is. Kenmerkende bruin vlekke kom op die bors voor (die Kaapse ooruil het groot vlekke op die bors en is baie growwer gestreep oor die pensdeel as die Gevlekte ooruil). Die oë van die Gevlekte ooruil is geel (en die subspesie wat noord van die ewenaar voorkom het bruin oë, terwyl die Kaapse Ooruil oranje oë het). Die uile met die kleurvariasie is raar en het ‘n rooibruin kleur in plaas van die grys op die bokant – hulle oë is oranje eerder as geel. Die Gevlekte ooruil se pote is kleiner as dié van die Kaapse Ooruil – ‘n onderskeidende kenmerk in die veld. Onvolwasse voëls lyk dieselfde as die ouers, maar hulle “oortjies” is korter en die strepies op die pens is swarter van kleur. Kuikens is bedek met wit donsvere en later word hulle donse gryser totdat hulle vere begin uitgroei.

The spotted eagle-owl (Bubo africanus) is a medium-sized species of owl, one of the smallest of the eagle owls. Its length is 45 centimetres (18 in) and its weight is from 454 to 907 grams (1.0 to 2.0 lb). It has a 100 to 140 centimetres (39 to 55 in) wingspan.[2] The facial disk is off white to pale ochre and the eyes are yellow. It has prominent ear tufts, and the upper body is dusky brown, the lower parts off-white with brown bars. Prior to 1999 the spotted eagle-owl was considered conspecific with the greyish eagle-owl, but now it is classed as a separate species.

Its prey consists of small mammals, birds, insects, frogs, and reptiles. It often swallows quite large prey whole, with much head-jerking, and if the object is really challenging, pausing and resting with the mouth full. Prey too large for such treatment it will tear in the normal raptorial fashion, and it also tears shreds off prey to feed nestlings. The male will hunt and bring food when the female cannot leave the nest. 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. The species is a non-specialised feeder, in contrast to say, the barn owls (Tyto) and is accordingly itinerant, remaining in a given region to hunt for a few weeks or months, then moving on when the local prey is no longer plentiful or easy to catch. Typically it will return at odd intervals of a year or two, depending on local conditions. An adult pair is typically very aggressive in defence of its hunting territory, and one obstacle for an adolescent to overcome is to find good feeding grounds where there are no incumbent adults to eject or kill it.

A juvenile at the World of Birds, Hout Bay, Cape Town.

The 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. These sounds they make throughout life, generally in a threatening attitude with head down and wings spread sideways to present their upper surfaces forward, umbrella-like. They might present such behaviour either as a challenge to rival owls or when defending nest or young against enemies. The young at least have a whickering call of protest or annoyance when handled. In a comfortable social situation the youngsters have a soft croaking “kreeep” that they are prone to repeat at regular intervals of a few seconds. If they suspect that they have lost their company, the calls increase in frequency and they are likely to go hunting for their companions.

As with all owls this species, when detected, is subject to daylight harassment by local birds. In the Gauteng area its main and extremely loud tormentor is the grey loerie, respite only coming at dusk. Spotted eagle-owls are regular bathers and during summer thunderstorms may be seen on tree limbs or on the ground with spread wings.

Published: 13 Oct 2017