The Pearl Spotted Owlet, being one of the smaller of the African Owls is by far the bravest and has been known to stand its ground to birds twice its size, the honey badger of the skies you could say! This charming little bird is commonly found in sub Saharan savannas, favouring mopane woodland and open thorn savanna. Its pint sized frame sports beautiful pale spots on its back and head, giving rise to its name, with a pale chest and belly, and a longish tail. Its Latin name perlatum, means ‘wearing pearls’. Their size makes them hard to spot even when calling from trees and bushes, the feathers providing perfect camouflage. Unlike our expectations of owls, this species is quite active during the day, heard calling to each other with their ‘peep peep’ crescendo, reaching the high note, to change to a long drawn out whistle. When spotted in a bush or tree, their distinctive large yellow eyes set in a white facial disc glares indignantly at you, making you feel you should hurry on your way and stop intruding. They then turn their heads 180 degrees and they are still looking at you, although on closer inspection, it’s their ‘false eyes’ on the back of their head that are staring at you instead. These ‘eyes’ are made up of black feathers, with a white ring around them, thought to deter predators but could have other uses.
They are mainly insectivorous but have been seen to catch an unexpecting lizard or dove, despite being almost the same size as the latter. They are monogamous and nest in holes in trees or dead logs, raising 2 to 3 chicks a season. They have been known for their deceit too, when threatened they play dead, rolling on their backs with their eyes closed, or if trapped in their holes, they lie on their fronts camouflaging themselves to look like debris on the bottom of their nest.
Their calls echo around the bush of Zim, reminding you that there are so many little treasures hidden away in its depths.