You often get excited about the larger species, and tend to overlook the smaller ones. This is very true when one looks at the small, easily missed Pearl-spotted Owlet, which weighs 65g for the males and the slightly larger female at 100g. These owlets measure a mere 17-21cm in height, making it the smallest and lightest owl in Africa. Well deserving of the name owlet, especially true when compared to the Verreaux’s Eagle Owl which can weigh 1.7 – 2.3kg and measures at 58-61cm for the males, and 62 – 65cm for the females.
On a drive yesterday I heard the familiar call of this little owl, followed by a group of bird’s alarm calling and harassing the owlet.
These tiny owlets have false eyes on the back of their heads, resembling two black spots, which give them the appearance as if they are constantly watching the world from all angles. This is often seen when they feel alarmed or excited, they will flick the tail from side to side, and twitch their head. When approaching and peering into a nest, the female may lay face down, showing off these false eyes, to make a bigger impression.
A formidable little predator that hunts mainly in the evening, but are active quite often in the day, targeting insects, but will also take small birds, mammals and even bats. This is why these poor little owlets often get harassed and mobbed by other birds, in particular forked tailed drongo’s, which gang up together like little mobsters to chase the owlet away. Drongo’s, also mimic the call of these owlets, thus further luring them in and then attacking them, not quite what the surprised bantam sized owlet is expecting upon its arrival.
They are monogamous, and the female mainly stays within the cozy, nesting cavity, where she utters soft calls for the male to come and feed her, whilst incubating 2 – 4 eggs for just less than a month.
For me it is a highlight for an afternoon drive to see, this tiny, cute bird.