[order] Strigiformes | [family] Strigidae | [latin] Asio capensis | [UK] Marsh Owl | [FR] Hibou du Cap | [DE] Kapohreule | [ES] Bho Moro | [IT] Gufo di palude africano | [NL] Afrikaanse Velduil

Afrikaanse Velduil determination

copyright: J. del Hoyo

The Marsh Owl is 35-37 cm in length with an 82-99 cm wingspan. It is similar to the slightly larger Short-eared Owl. It has yellow eyes with a black iris, and short ear-tufts which are not usually visible. It is distinguished from its relative by its dark brown plumage, and almost unstreaked upperparts. It is long winged, and glides slowly on stiff wings when hunting. It will often perch on the ground or low posts.

As it name suggests, it is often associated with marshes, however it also occurs in tall grassland, reeds, sedges and Acacia woodland.

It occupies an area from Ethiopia to southern Africa, where it is uncommon to locally common in Botswana, Zimbabwe and large areas of South Africa, especially in the Kruger National Park

Its food is mainly insects, but it will take small mammals, such as rodents and birds. Usually hunts in the day, eating insects but also small vertebrates. When hunting, it flies low over the ground, searching for prey, occasionally swerving or hovering. Once a prey item has been spotted, it rapidly dives to the ground, picking it up with its talons before storing it in a nearby hiding place, to be eaten later.

This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 7,300,000 km. The global population size has not been quantified, but it is believed to be large as the species is described as 'common' in at least parts of its range (del Hoyo et al. 1999). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]

It nests in a slight depression in the ground, surrounded by dense grass and weeds, making it difficult to find. Egg-laying season is from October-December in Botswana, and mainly from March-April elsewhere in southern Africa. It lays 2-6, usually 2-4 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female, for about 27-28 days. The male does all the hunting, storing his prey in "caches", to be eaten later by either him or the female. The chicks stay in the nest for about 14-18 days, after which they crawl around the surrounding bush for a few weeks, at least until they learn to fly. The fledglings are thought to remain dependent on their parents until they are about 80 days old.

Resident throughout range