African Wood Owl (Strix woodfordii)

African Wood Owl

[order] STRIGIFORMES | [family] Strigidae | [latin] Strix woodfordii | [authority] Smith, 1834 | [UK] African Wood Owl | [FR] Chouette africaine | [DE] Afrikanischer Waldkauz | [ES] Carabo Africano | [NL] Afrikaanse Bosuil


Monotypic species


Members of the genus Strix are the wood owls. They are medium to large owls, having a large, rounded head and no ear-tufts. The comparatively large eyes range from yellow through to dark brown. Colouring is generally designed fro camouflage in woodland, and a number of the member of this genus have colour phases. There are 20 species scattered practically throughout the globe with the exception of Australasia, the South Pacific and Madagascar, where the genus Ninox takes its place. There being no clear generic differences between Strix and Ciccaba genera, and DNA evidence suggesting very close relationships, many authorities now merge the latter into the former.

Physical charateristics

Medium sized, dark eyed owl with no ear tufts. Brown above spotted with white, rufous and dark barring on whitish background below. Brown facial disk with white eyebrows.

Listen to the sound of African Wood Owl

[audio: Wood Owl.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 30 cm size max.: 36 cm
incubation min.: 30 days incubation max.: 31 days
fledging min.: 33 days fledging max.: 37 days
broods: 0   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 3  


Africa : widespread. Africa from Senegambia to Sudan south to Angola, Kenya, Zaire and down the east coast to South Africa.


Primarily forest and woodland also found on plantations. In suitable habitat it will occur from sea level up to around 3,700m (12,140 feet), and it is resident throughout its range.


Generally nesting in tree-holes, with no preparation or lining, or on the ground underneath a fallen log, the African Wood Owl or Woodfords Owl lays 1-3 (usually 2) eggs at two to four day intervals. Incubation commences as soon as the first egg is laid. The female alone incubates and is fed at the nest by the male.
Incubation requires about 31 days per egg. The eyes open at about 10 days after hatching, and the first plumage starts to push through the down at about the same time. The female broods the young closely for about three weeks, after which she joins the male at night in his hunting trips, which are never far from the nest.
The young will leave the nest and start branching at any time between 23 and 37 days. They will be flying well by 46 days after hatching, but will remain close to the nest and attended by the parents until they are about four months old.

Feeding habits

The diet of the African Wood Owl or Woodfords Owl consists mostly of large insects, although it also takes small rodents, birds, lizards and frogs. Most of its hunting is carried out from a perch, watching its prey intently before swooping to strike. Flying insects are taken in flight, and small animals are snatched from vegetation without alighting.

Video African Wood Owl


copyright: Josep del Hoyo


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
The African Wood Owl or Woodfords Owl is quite common in most of its range, where there is suitable habitat, although it is, in common with all forest and woodland owls, very susceptible to loss from deforestation.
It is a strictly nocturnal species, spending the daylight hours in dense cover, either singly or in pairs. At night the birds often call from exposed perches, and at the top of the forest canopy.
African Wood Owl status Least Concern


Presumed resident

Distribution map

African Wood Owl distribution range map

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