Cape Eagle-Owl (Bubo capensis)

Cape Eagle-Owl

[order] STRIGIFORMES | [family] Strigidae | [latin] Bubo capensis | [authority] Smith, 1834 | [UK] Cape Eagle-Owl | [FR] Grand duc du Cape | [DE] Kapuhu | [ES] Buho de El Cabo | [NL] Kaapse Oehoe


Monotypic species


Members of the genus Bubo are the largest of the owls. Heavily built with powerful talons they are recognisable by their size, their prominent ear-tufts, and their eyes that vary in colour from yellow to brown but are frequently vivid orange. The genus, including the Asian fish owls of the genus Ketupa – now believed to be part of Bubo – comprises of 20 species ranging Eurasia, Indonesia, Africa and the Americas. DNA evidence suggests that the Snowy Owls of Nyctea and the fish owls of Scotopelia are also candidates for inclusion in this genus.

Physical charateristics

This is a large owl with conspicuous ‘eartufts’. It is mottled dark tawny brown above and blotched brown and white below. Its white throat patch is conspicuous when it is calling, the eyes are orange, the bill black and the feet yellowish grey. It is nocturnal and usually solitary.

Listen to the sound of Cape Eagle-Owl

[audio: Eagle-Owl.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 48 cm size max.: 58 cm
incubation min.: 34 days incubation max.: 36 days
fledging min.: 43 days fledging max.: 46 days
broods: 0   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 3  


Africa : South, Southeast, East


It is restricted to mountainous areas with cliffs, outcrops and gorges, and can live as high as 2500m above sea level. Habitat preferences vary from region to region, favouring mesic fynbos in the Western Cape, miombo woodland in Zimbabwe, grassland and bushveld in Gauteng and Mpumalanga, and semi-desert scrub in Namibia.


Nests in a scrape in the ground, often on ledges, hidden by trees or rocks, in cliff recesses or regularly near streams or rivers. The female often lies in the scrape for days before laying her eggs. It sometimes uses the same nest site repeatedly, but not in consecutive years. Egg-laying season is from May-July in eastern South Africa and Zimbabwe, from August-September in the Eastern Cape and from June-August in the Western Cape. It lays 1-3 eggs, which are incubated mainly by the female for about 34-38 days. The male spends most of his time providing her with food, although he may incubate occasionally so that the female can hunt. Once the chicks are born the male still does most of the hunting, but the female always feeds the prey to the brood. The chicks leave the nest at about 45 days old, but still remain in the vicinity of the nest, where they are still fed by both their parents. They become fully independent 2-3 months after fledging.

Feeding habits

Mainly eats mammals, supplemented with birds, reptiles and invertebrates. It hunts at night, searching for prey on low perches. Once prey has been located, it swoops silently down, grabbing the prey with its strong talons. Amazingly, it is capable of carrying prey weighing 4.5 kg, four times its body weight.

Video Cape Eagle-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.
Cape Eagle-Owl status Least Concern


Resident, young may disperse widely

Distribution map

Cape Eagle-Owl distribution range map

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