Do you want to know the different types of owls in Sierra Leone?
If so, you have come to the right place. In the article below, I have listed the owls you can expect to see. For each species, you will find out how to identify each owl correctly, along with pictures, interesting facts, and RANGE MAPS!
The temptation to intersperse this entire article with puns is almost overwhelming. I could just wing it and beak-off about these birds all day long, but I really do give a hoot, and soon you would be talon me to stop it. Ok, settle down because that is owl you get. 🙂
Keep reading to learn about 4 Types of owls found in Sierra Leone!
#1. Barn Owl
- Tyto alba
- They have a heart-shaped, white facial disk with a tawny brown outline. Their eyes are black.
- The head, back, and tail are yellowish-brown with some white or ashy grey spots, and the underparts are white.
- Adults are 17.3 inches (44 cm) tall, with a wingspan of 9 to 12.6 inches (23 to 32 cm).
Although Barn Owns typically roost in hollow trees, they’re often found in caves, wells, and even secluded buildings. They’re nocturnal, so anywhere that provides a dark, quiet space for this species to rest is a likely spot for a roost.
Barn Owls eat small rodents, insects, baby rabbits, small birds, frogs, lizards, and bats. They fly low over the ground, searching out prey with their excellent night vision, and quietly grab their meal from the ground.
Interestingly, wild Barn Owls in Sierra Leone have a fairly short life span of around two years. But, when kept in captivity, this species can live up to 20 years. Although most animals live longer in captivity due to protection from predators and steady feeding, the Barn Owl takes it to a new level!
While this species is most active at night, they occasionally hunt just after sunrise or before sunset. Instead of trying to find one by sight, listen for its noises which can be varied and distinctive. They communicate with drawn-out screeches, distinct repetitive twittering, or low croaks. The Barn owl can also hiss or rasp when surprised.
#2. African Wood Owl
- Strix woodfordii
- This species has a rounded head, dark eyes, and white eyebrows. The facial disc is white with a dark brown outline. The beak is yellow.
- The coloring is light brown above, and the underparts are white with brown spots.
- Adults are 12 to 13.8 inches (30 to 35 cm) long with a wingspan of 8.6 to 10.6 inches (22 to 27 cm).
African Wood Owls, also called Woodford’s owls, live in forests and woodland areas. They’re nocturnal, and they roost in pairs in the dense foliage of trees. However, because of its nighttime activity and camouflage, you’d have a hard time finding one of these medium-sized owls in Sierra Leone.
Their mating period is from July to October, and the female lays 1 to 3 eggs in a hollow tree. The incubation starts as soon as the first egg is laid, so the oldest, biggest hatchling sometimes kills the younger siblings if there is a food shortage. Hatchlings sometimes stay in the nest with their parents until the next breeding season.
Interestingly, African Wood Owls sing duets between males and females, usually in breeding pairs. The male calls with clear, fast hoots, and the female responds in a higher pitch but with a more relaxed, slower call.
#3. Northern White-faced Owl
- Ptilopsis leucotis
- The well-defined facial disk is white with a bold black rim around it. It has orange eyes and a yellowish bill. Feathers grow over the bill, giving this owl a peculiar mustache. The ear tufts are large, long, and tipped in black.
- This species is pale grey with bold white and black streaks.
- Adults are 9.4 to 9.8 inches (24 to 25 cm) long with a wing span of 6.6″ to 7.8″ (17 to 20 cm).
The Northern White-faced Owl can be found in tree trunks or rich tree foliage, where it roosts during the day. It prefers to stay in dry savannas with thorny trees, dry open forests, and woodlands.
This species is nocturnal and hunts primarily during the middle of the night, avoiding dawn and dusk hours as well as the daytime. They hunt from a perch, swooping down on their prey, which they typically swallow whole.
Northern White-faced Owl’s main defense mechanism is fascinating. When they sense a threat, these owls puff out their feathers and wings to appear over twice their actual size. However, if the predator is much larger than itself, it will pull its feathers in to appear even smaller.
#4. Greyish Eagle Owl
- Bubo cinerascens
- This species’ facial disk is a medium brown with a dark outline. Its eyes are dark brown, and its beak is gray.
- The coloring is brown mottled with cream on the back and wings, and the underside is white to pale cream.
- Adults are about 17 inches (43 cm) long with a wingspan of 11 to 13 inches (28 to 33 cm).
The Greyish Eagle Owl is found in Sierra Leone in open savannahs and dry, rocky deserts. They roost during the day in rocky outcrops, bushes, tree foliage, or in deserted manufactured structures like outbuildings and barns.
Its diet consists of large insects and spiders. The Greyish Eagle hunts at night from a perch, where it sits, and waits for prey to get closer. Occasionally, this species will also “hawk” flying insects directly from the air while gliding!
Do you need more help identifying an owl you saw in Sierra Leone?
If so, check out this field guide, which is full of great information!
And be sure to check out these other articles about animals in Sierra Leone:
Which of these owls have you seen before in Sierra Leone?
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