Friday, 21 November 2014

Abby and Raymond the Spotted Eagle Owls

Abby the Spotted Eagle Owl

As I lay in bed, I was entertained by the sounds of Abby and her new partner talking to each other. I released Abby late one evening and she obviously was quite taken in by the male that had been ‘courting’ outside her aviary for the last month.

Abby is one of the many Spotted Eagle owls that have come my way over the past couple of years. In one of my previous blogs, I mentioned picking her up next to the highway between Beaufort West and Aberdeen (that is why she is called Abby). She was a lucky owl as I had just caught the glimpse of her disappearing off the road verge as we were speeding along at 120km an hour. Her wing had been clipped by a vehicle, probably in the early hours of that morning and her ‘wrist joint’ had a strain that ‘grounded’ her. She was in very good condition, but would have died next to the fence had we not caught her and brought her home.

Abby in her 'hospital bed'

Her treatment was bed rest for the wing for at least a month. So Abby was put into a holding crate and fed on dead day old chicks plus a mouse or two that I had stored in the deepfreeze. These were kindly ‘caught’ by one of my neighbours, Barbi, who used to grab whatever her cat would catch and then place it in a tub for me. They were called my ‘take-aways’ that were very useful for whenever I had an injured/sick owl or small raptor. Sadly Barbi does not live next door anymore.

It was a couple days after Abby arrived that Raymond came. He was found in a garden in the Waqu valley by Ray Kemp. Ray brought him to me in a HUGE cardboard box and upon inspection, I seriously thought that he would not make the night. However, Raymond pulled through, but for a long time he was quite content for me to cut up the chicks and feed them to him. His problem was that he could not focus at all. My thoughts are that he had probably consumed a poisoned rat/mouse and then had flown into a window or wall and concussed himself. I was quite concerned that he would never see again. Raymond was put into another holding crate next to Abby.

Cape Spotted Eagle owl eyes

Raymond started calling first. Every evening, Raymond's call would entertain me  interspersed with Abby’s wu-whoo-whoo. Spotted Eagle owls’ sexes can be identified by their calls. 

Cape Spotted Eagle body markings

The males usually give a double hoot, which the female answers with a softer triple hoot. Raymond has the more conventional colouration compared to that of Abby’s, who has a brown morph colouration with more orange eyes. 

Cape Spotted Eagle owl talons
Spotted Eagle owls are also very similar to Cape Eagle owls.  An identification marker for Cape Eagle owls is the orange colouration in their eyes. Often people are confused when sighting a brown morph Spotted Eagle owl with the brown morph characteristics. Cape Eagle owls also have HUGE talons equipped to capture larger prey like hares.

Abby went into the bigger aviary about a month ago to stretch her wings and get some flying practise. Raymond joined her about a week later, not knowing if he would be able to ‘see’ his food, as he was still quite content to be fed. Whether it was the sunshine or the competition, but it did not take him too long to ‘see’ his food and he was quite comfortably flying up to collect his share of food not long after being put into the aviary. Once I had to bring him in due to getting quite wet from a downpour we had one night, but not for long before he went out again.

A brown morph Spotted Eagle owls - note the orange eye colouration


The ‘outsider’ male Spotted Eagle owl had been calling around the house from about a month ago. Sometimes one would catch a glimpse of him during the evening and in the past couple of days he would be seen sitting on top of the aviary or on a post close by. Clearly he was quite taken in by this potential mate and I could often hear them ‘talking’ to each other.


So recently, I caught Raymond and brought him inside to his holding crate. I fed Abby for the last time and then opened the cage door to allow her to fly free. This she did. Raymond, being a male, will be challenged by Abby’s mate, so once he has built up more strength and body weight, will be returned to his garden in the Waqu valley to fly in his own territory.


Miracle, who miraculously missed being another road kill statistic.

Spotted Eagle owls are probably one of the biggest road casualties on our roads in South Africa. They hunt the mice that are chasing after the ‘food’ that has been deposited next to or on the roads (be it maize or whatever has fallen from vehicles). I hit a Spotted Eagle owl one night driving on the N6 from East London. We called her Miracle as she suffered bruising above her beak and fortunately nothing else. Had we not stopped to pick her up – she would certainly have been a road casualty while lying there in her concussed state. 


Spotted Eagle owl chick

So when driving at night, keep your eyes open for these guys with their ear tufts

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