Did you know that giant eagle owls catch francolins? - News - Gondwana Collection


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Did you know that giant eagle owls catch francolins?

Avatar of inke inke - 09. January 2018 - Environment

A female giant eagle owl with its chick on a hamerkop nest in Mahango National Park in September 2016. Numerous visitors were able to watch the large owl and the chick from the road and take pictures.

Dirk Heinrich

The giant eagle owl chick is still very young, even though it stands almost 30 centimetres tall. Behind the chick is a red leg and another one lies at the other side of the nest: proof that the young owl’s last meal was a fully-grown red-billed francolin. During winter the owl parents took over the abandoned nest of a secretary bird, built in the dense thicket of a whitethorn acacia (Acacia karoo / vachellia karoo) some 25 kilometres south of Windhoek. At the end of 2014 the secretary birds raised two chicks there. 

Giant eagle owls (Bubu lacteus), also known as Verreaux's eagle-owl or the milky eagle owl, not only use the old nests of secretary birds or eagles for breeding, but also the top of sociable weaver and hamerkop nests. They raise one chick, sometimes two of them, which stay with their parents until the next breeding season the following year. This owl species is the second-largest in the country, growing up to 65 centimetres tall. Males weigh 1.7 kg on average, females 2.3 kg. The giant eagle owl is a very agile and soundless flyer. Its diet consists of termites, beetles, various bird species including guinea fowl and even mammals like young vervet monkeys and new-born warthogs. The late nature conservation official Raymond Dujardin, who established the waterhole at Halali in Etosha National Park, once saw a giant eagle owl catch a Damara dik-dik, Namibia’s smallest antelope species, in the Namutoni area.  

The large pale grey owls with the pink eyelids are found in tree savannahs, at (dry) rivers lined with tall trees and in the woodlands of the central and northern parts of the country. At least one pair has been observed even in Windhoek, i.e. in the suburb of Klein-Windhoek, for many years. During the day the owls hide in the dense branches and foliage of tall trees. They rarely hunt in broad daylight but become active soon after sunset. What looks like ears are tufts of feathers – the real ears at the side of the head are covered by feathers. Like all owls, the giant eagle owl has a highly developed sense of hearing as well as excellent eyesight.  

This large raptor has big, strong talons with which it swiftly grabs and kills its prey. In flight it is able to carry prey weighing up to 1.8 kg. If it has caught large prey and doesn’t have to feed a chick it will eat as much as it can and hold on to the remains with its talons while resting during the day. Feeding then continues towards evening.     

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