African Grass Owl (Tyto capensis)

African Grass Owl

[order] STRIGIFORMES | [family] Tytonidae | [latin] Tyto capensis | [authority] Smith, 1834 | [UK] African Grass Owl | [FR] Effraie du Cap | [DE] Kap-Graseule | [ES] Lechuza de El Cabo | [NL] Kaapse Grasuil


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Tyto capensis AF Subsaharan Africa from Ethiopia and Cameroun south to South Africa


The genus Tyto includes all barn-owls (family Tytonidae) except for the bay-owls (subfamily Phodilinae, genus Phodilus) – that is, the true barn-owls, the grass-owls and the masked-owls collectively making up the subfamily Tytoninae. They are darker on the back than the front, usually an orange-brown colour, the front being a paler version of the back or mottled, although there is considerable variation even amongst species. Tyto owls have a divided, heart-shaped facial disc, and lack the ear-like tufts of feathers found in many other owls. Tyto owls tend to be larger than Bay-owls.

Physical charateristics

Grass Owls differ in appearance from their cousins the Barn Owl in being larger, with stronger contrast between the upper and lower body. The upperparts are dark brown and the underparts whitish. The face is also rounder than that of the Barn Owl.

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 34 cm size max.: 37 cm
incubation min.: 32 days incubation max.: 42 days
fledging min.: 40 days fledging max.: 42 days
broods: 0   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 5  


Africa : Subsaharan Africa from Ethiopia and Cameroun south to South Africa


This owl species makes its unlikely home in wetland habitat. They roost on the ground in drainage lines or in areas that have not been burnt or trampled by cattle. They are found on the eastern side of South Africa in areas of higher rainfall which facilitates their preference for long thick, rank.


Males and females roost apart during the day. When they breed, she lays up to 4 eggs at either spot. The eggs are laid on a pad of grass at the end of inter-leading grassy passageways, made by the parent owls. The female incubates and the male feeds her. They repeat a rhythmic clicking call that rises to a pitch as they approach each other in flight or as they bring prey to the nest. At five weeks of age the young owls start to move about and will hide in other compartments if disturbed and at seven weeks they start to fly.

Feeding habits

Grass Owls have a quartering hunting style whereby they systematically fly low over an area looking for their prey of rodents, shrews, some birds and insects. Their flat facial disc allows them to locate their prey by sound as well as eyesight. When they locate the unsuspecting creature they plunge into the grass with legs extended to catch it with sharp talons. Their favourite meal is the vlei rat and their worst choice probably frogs. Owls swallow their prey whole and 12 to 24 hours later they regurgitate a compact pellet of all
indigestible bones, fur, feathers and shells.


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). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to 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.
African Grass Owl status Least Concern



Distribution map

African Grass Owl distribution range map

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