The African Grass Owl

The African Grass Owl (Tyto capensis) is a species of owl in the Tytonidae family.  It is found in Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.  The African Grass Owl Tyto capensis is considered Vulnerable in South Africa, with between 1 000 and 5 000 birds remaining in the country.  The species is extirpated in south-western South Africa and Lesotho, and the combined pressure from development; fire mismanagement; land clearing for agriculture; overgrazing; a forestation and road kill are of serious concern for the species.

Grass Owls differ in appearance from their cousins, the Barn Owl being larger, with stronger contrast between the upper parts which are dark brown and the under parts whitish.  The face is also rounder than that of the Barn Owl.   The bird is mainly found in the Savanna grasslands where it breeds and feeds.  The Tyto capensis attacks its prey aerially and feeds on wing or takes the prey to a secluded venue where it is killed, torn into small pieces and eaten.  The diet includes small mammals such as rabbits, field mice and other rodents.  Rodents are usually taken from the ground and killed using the sharp claws.  The African Grass-Owl uses its hard bill to tear up the flesh.  The bird also eats insects such as butterflies, bees, wasps, locusts and ants.  These invertebrates are usually hawked aerially, killed and then eaten.

The African Grass-Owl is monogamous unless its mate dies.  In the event of a partner dying Tyto capensis will seek out a new mate.  The nesting habit of African Grass-Owl is to create the nest in a hole in a tree trunk.  The bird lays eggs which are white in colour and number between 2 to 6.  The bird builds its nest within a tree cavity just a few meters above the ground.  The hole in the tree is normally reused in the next nesting season.

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