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African Barred Owlet

Bungalow # 197 offered this account of witnessing a fantastic interaction between the African Barred Owlet and the Fork-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis).

“Auriel and I have both had the flu so have not been going out on game drives but have been blessed with the “goings on around the house”.  The events leading up to the attached pictures unfolded over about an hour and a half. The drongo had been injured – possibly by one of a pair of owlets that hang around the house. It had a damaged wing but was fine otherwise. 

When the one owlet tried to attack the drongo on the ground a number of other drongos viciously attacked the owlet causing it to retreat into a nearby tree. The injured drongo then hid in a hollow log. 

With the injured drongo out of sight the other drongos protecting it disappeared, and the owlet then flew onto a branch above the hollow log where it sat dead still and waited. It sat absolutely still for over an hour staring down at the log. 

Eventually the injured drongo emerged and tried to make a run for it but the owlet was onto it immediately. What is amazing is the owlet actually managing to fly off with the drongo which is not much smaller than itself. The noise from the drongo was amazing as it attempted to fight back.”

  • There are 12 owl species in South Africa, namely Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Cape Eagle Owl, Spotted Eagle Owl, Barn Owl, African Grass Owl, African Wood Owl, Marsh Owl, Southern White-Faces Scopa Owl, African Barred Owlet, Pearl Spotted Owlet and African Scops Owl. 
  • The African Barred Owlet is a small owl (20 – 21 cm long) with a wide distribution in southern and central Africa. Average mass is between 85-140 grams. There are no ear tufts, typically associated with many owl species. Females are slightly larger than males, but both sexes have the same plumage. Their heads are rounded. The eyes are yellow.
  • African Barred Owlets are vocal, and can be heard calling their repetitive tunes for several hours on end. Their main diet consists of insects as they hunt during day light hours being partly diurnal. Birds, as # 197 witnessed, and small rodents are also part of their diet. Hearing and eyesight is acute and aids enormously when hunting. 
  • Preferred habitat is wooded areas, riparian areas but they may also occur in more open savannahs under suitable conditions. 
  • Egg incubation averages 30 days and chicks are fledged at just over 30 days. Both parents feed the young. Nests are natural hollows in trees, at least six metres above ground level. 
  • The African Barred Owlet’s conservation status is Least Concern. Despite a declining population trend, their numbers are generally sufficient over a massive range, but can be locally threatened in certain places. 

Owlet catching the drongo

Owlet roosting before enjoying its meal

Owlet looking for a suitable roost


Facts researched on the Internet. Words by John Llewellyn.