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Photos & Facts: Magnificent Owls

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Kariega Game Reserve stretches over 10,000 hectares of pristine coastal thicket and includes a variety of habitats for wildlife and birds, particularly magnificent owls. Our safari guests and rangers have spotted six of the 12 owl species found in southern Africa - the barn owl, wood owl, barred owlet, African scops owl, Verreaux's (giant) eagle-owl and the spotted eagle-owl (pictured above). 

Guide Daniel Haesslich photographed this beautiful Afrcian scops owl which can reach up to a height of 18 cm.

Kariega Scops Owl

Interesting Facts About Owls

  • An owl can rotate its neck up to 270 degrees.
  • Some owls, like the barred owlet, use hollowed out Euphorbia trees for their nests. These trees have a poisonous liquid in their stem which deters predators.
  • Owls are virtually silent flyers. This is achieved as their wing surface area is very large compared to their body size. They also have a soft edging on their flight feathers.
  • All owl species have different calls.
  • Owls swallow their prey whole. They bring up an owl pellet which consists of all the non-digested material including the prey's bones, hair or feathers.
  • Owls play an important role in the environment by controlling populations of rodents, snakes, doves, frogs and fish. These are some of their main foodie treats.
  • Barn owls are the most common of all southern African owl species. They are also voracious eaters and a breeding pair can eat about 3,000 rodents per year!

Threats to Owls

The main threat to owls is human ignorance. Some people believe that an owl means bad luck. This results in owls being killed, caught and sometime tortured. Their body parts will also be used in traditional medicine.

Owls are often killed when they are hit by a car at night or when they eat poisoned rodents. Domestic cats and dogs can kill owl chicks when they find them in their nests.

Ways to Help Protect Owls

  1. Don't use poison to kill rats and mice. The owls may eat the poisoned rodent and will also succumb to the poison.
  2. Do reseach about the owls in your area and educate your friends, family and school about them.
  3. Put up a nest box in your garden. This might attract an owl which could use it as a nesting site. 
  4. If you find an owl on the ground, call a wildlife rehabilitation centre and ask for help. Keep dogs and cats away.
  5. Follow and support rehabilitation centres that look after owls and other injured animals.

Were you lucky enough to spot any owls whilst on a night time safari on Kariega Game Reserve?