Pels Fishing Owl (Scotopelia peli)

Pels Fishing Owl

[order] STRIGIFORMES | [family] Strigidae | [latin] Scotopelia peli | [authority] Bonaparte, 1850 | [UK] Pels Fishing Owl | [FR] Chouette pecheuse de Pel | [DE] Binden-Fischeule | [ES] Carabo Pescador Comun | [NL] Pel’s Visuil


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Scotopelia peli AF widespread


Fish owls of the genus Scotopelia live in the African rainforest and includes the Pel’s fishing-owl, the rufous fish owl, endemic to western African rainforest, and the vermiculated fish owl. These Owls have very distinct feet which sets them apart from all other Owls. The feet are similar to that of the Osprey with a rough surface perfectly adapted to grip fish. Unlike most other owls these raptors are adapted to a variety of habitats.

Physical charateristics

Adults are rich ginger-rufous with dense dark bars to the upperparts and scaling to the underparts. The two related African fish-owls are smaller and lack the dark barring and scaling (though they do have dark streaks below). Juveniles are more uniform buff than adults. Unlike the eagle-owls, the ear tufts of the Pel’s Fishing-owl are barely visible, giving it a very round-headed appearance.

Listen to the sound of Pels Fishing Owl

[audio: Fishing Owl.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 145 cm wingspan max.: 155 cm
size min.: 55 cm size max.: 63 cm
incubation min.: 32 days incubation max.: 33 days
fledging min.: 68 days fledging max.: 70 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 3  


Africa : widespread


Pel’s fishing-owl is found in forest or woodland along the edges of rivers, swamps, lakes and estuaries, up to elevations of 1700 m. It may also be found well away from forest and even in semi-desert areas, as long as there are large trees growing at the water’s edge.


The species is monogamous, and pairs usually only breed, on average, every other year. The nest is built three to twelve metres above the ground, inside a tree cavity. Although up to two eggs are laid, usually only a single chick survives. The eggs hatch after an incubation period of 32 to 33 days, the surviving chick fledging after 68 to 70 days, but remaining dependent on the adults for up to a further nine months. Young Pel’s fishing-owls reach breeding age at around two years old

Feeding habits

It feeds nocturnally on fish and frogs snatched from the surface of lakes and rivers

Video Pels Fishing Owl


copyright: Keith Blomerley


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.
Pels Fishing Owl status Least Concern


Presumed resident

Distribution map

Pels Fishing Owl distribution range map

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