Marsh owl

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The Marsh owl (Asio capensis) is a medium / large species of raptor in the family Strigidae (Typical owls).

Owls are divided into two families: the true (or typical) owl family, Strigidae, and the barn-owl family, Tytonidae[1].

Marsh owl
Asio capensis, Tweeling, a.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae
Genus: Asio
A. capensis
Binomial name
Asio capensis
(Smith, 1834)


Medium sized, dark brown with a pumpkin shaped head with small 'ear' tufts[3].The facial disc is pale buff, with a distinct dark brown rim with buff speckles. There is a dark brown area around the eyes, which are also dark brown[4]. It's ear-tufts are earth-brown and quite small, often not visible, and set near the centre of the forehead[4]. The tail is dark brown, barred pale buff with a whitish tip.Tarsi are feathered pale tawny-buff and toes are covered with pale buffish plumes, leaving the dark brown tips bare. Claws are blackish.[4]

Males are generally paler then females, and there is some individual variation in tone[4]. Length 31-38cm. Wing length 284-380mm. Tail length 132-186mm. Weight 225-485g[4].


The Marsh owl's habitat preference is open grassland, marshlands and short scrub [5], typically near/ on marshy grounds, vleis or dams[6]. Marsh owls prefer to nest on the ground[6] and they have also been observed leave certain areas during drought stricken times [5]. Their preferred habitat tends to be vulnerable to destruction due to agriculture or overgrazing[5].


Nesting usually occurs towards the end of the wet season or the start of the dry season [5]. The owls are monogamous and often territorial. They may nest in loose colonies. Territories are normally 0.8-2.5 square km but may be even smaller in denser populations. Hunting areas of neighboring pairs may overlap[4]. The nest is typically a hollow within a patch of grass, in which the grass or shrubs are pulled over to form a canopy, and the bottom is lined with dry foliage[4] .

The female will lay between 2-6 white eggs over the course of a few days. The incubation period is 27-28 days, and during this time the female will remain on the eggs and will be fed by her partner[4]. After hatching the chicks will remain in the nest until about 18 days. They will fully fledge at 29-35 days and be fully feathered by 70 days[4].

Behavior and Diet[edit]

Marsh owls are typically found singly or in pairs [3]. They are usually nocturnal however they have been recorded to be active during early morning and late afternoon[3].

The Marsh owl typically feeds on small rodents, insects and other small vertebrates [4]. Prey items include mice, voles, rats, shrews, young hares, bats, birds up to the size of small ducks and doves, frogs, lizards, scorpions, beetles, grasshoppers[4].


The Marsh owl has a fragmented distribution. They are common in grasslands in Southern Africa. Specifically central and southern Transval, the Free State, KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Province[5]. They are also found in Zimbabwe, on the Mashonaland plateau, and Botswana, in the Makgadikgadi lacustrine depression in Botswana[5].

They have also been recorded on the floodplains on the Namibian coast and in isolated populations in Morocco and Madagascar[5].


  1. ^ "Owl". Wikipedia. 2018-04-17.
  2. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Asio capensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  3. ^ a b c Newman, Kenneth (1994). Newman's Birds of Southern Africa. South Africa: Southern Book Publishers. p. 216.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Lewis, Deane. "Marsh Owl (Asio capensis) - Information, Pictures, Sounds - The Owl Pages". The Owl Pages. Retrieved 2018-05-21.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Harrison, J.A., Allan, D.G., Underhill, L.G., Herremans, M., Tree, A.J., Parker, V. & Brown, C.J. (eds). 1997. The atlas of southern African birds. Vol. 1: Non-passerines. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg
  6. ^ a b Malan, Gerard (2009). Raptor Survey and Monitoring. South Africa: Briza Publications. pp. 10–17.

External links[edit]

Media related to Asio capensis at Wikimedia Commons