The Verreaux’s Eagle Owl is the largest owl in tropical Africa, weighing in at about 3kgs, and boasts being the fourth heaviest owl in the world (source Wikipedia). This large owl is found inhabiting savanna woodland and riverine acacia in most countries in Southern Africa. It is a pale grey bird, with bold black brackets around its face, ear tufts and relatively uniform plumage. Its most striking feature is the pink eyelids, the ecological purpose of these colorful eyelids are not known, however Brown (1965) suggested that they might replace the colorful yellow to orange eyes of most eagle-owls in breeding and territorial displays. The Verreaux’s have brown eyes, not the yellow or orange of others of their kind. The largest wingspan was from a wild female measuring in at 164cm or 5ft 5in. Females are usually heavier than males, sometime up to 35% bigger!
Their large talons allow them to prey on a huge variety of creatures, the largest known kill being a secretary bird killed on its roost at night! The usual delicacies of these owls are a variety of mammals, including hedgehogs, mongoose, vervet monkeys and warthog piglets, along with a huge array of birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and insects.
They are nest thieves too, often seen using Hammerkop nests, eagle or sociable weaver nests. They have been seen ‘sharing’ nests, an Egyptian Goose incubating 11 eggs in a Hammerkop nest with a Verreaux Eagle Owl nesting on top. 2 large white eggs are usually produced from April to August, with only one chick usually been raised into adulthood. The adults, when the nest or chick is threatened, act like they are wounded, fluttering and hooting, trying to draw the attention of the potential attacker towards them instead of their nest or chicks.
These formidable creatures are a joy to watch as they glide and swoop in the twilight, their calls echoing across the savanna nightscape.