Ever had the feeling that you were being watched? I was rattling my wheelie bin out onto the street today when I had a sense that someone was watching me. And there she was gold eyes wide with reproach for my disturbance of the morning peace. Spotted Eagle Owls are fairly common throughout South Africa and their cosmopolitan character has given them an entry ticket to life in many of our towns and suburbs. Their iconic `fat-cat’ silhouette perched on rooftops and streetlights is not unusual in the South Peninsula of Cape Town. But seeing one so close gave me a real thrill and I rushed off to find out where to get an owl nesting box so that I could invite her to stay. We often hear their gentle hu-hoos in our neighbourhood at night. Far from being ghostly or a bad omen, it is a wonderful reminder that many wild creatures have adapted to living in our cities.
Spotted Eagle Owls are monogamous and territorial. Surprisingly, they often build their nests on the ground in burrows and under grassy tufts, but they also roost and nest in big trees, on cliffs or building ledges. So, placing an owl nest box in a large tree near where they roost could entice them to move in. If you are interested in erecting a nest box for a Spotted Eagle Owl go to: http://www.birdlife.org.za/page/5616/build_your_own_owl_house for information and construction plans. See the attached photo. The open-sided box is for Eagle Owls and the closed one with small door is for Barn Owls. Remember to use untreated marine ply. Be warned, there is a chance that an Egyptian Geese pair may try and occupy the owl box.
Fortunately Spotted Eagle Owls breed successfully in areas where they are not disturbed. They breed most months of the year, but summer is the preferred season. There are usually 2-3 chicks in one brood and the juveniles are fully independent 4 months after leaving the nest. By way of conclusion, this delightful anecdote in an article by bird expert Nico Myberg which appeared in Village Life describes the tolerance of a nesting eagle owl whose nest had to be relocated as the nest tree was threatened by road widening: “We put the eggs into a large basket and in four stages, 24 hours apart, we moved the basket from one tree to another. After the fourth day the nest was right in front of the farmer’s new lounge window, owl and all.”
May you be blessed with nights so peaceful that you can hear an owl hoot.