Monday, June 23, 2014

Verreaux's Eagle Owl

Verreaux's eagle owl is named after the French naturalist Jules Verreaux, who also has an eagle, coua, sifaka, white-tipped dove and golden parrotbill named after him. It is the largest African owl and the world's third heaviest owl. It is distinguished by a whitish oval disk face with a black border and pink eyelids. It has two fluffy ear-tufts similar to a great horned owl. 

We saw them on two occasions. The first was in Buffalo Springs National Reserve in northern Kenya. Our driver got a call over his radio that a leopard had been spotted in a tree. When we got there, several vehicles were parked and people were scanning one of several trees. It took awhile, but we eventually caught sight of a striped tail hanging down over the limb of a tree. Our driver got closer and he eventually said, it looks more like an owl. It finally became apparent, as more and more people got looking at it with binoculars, that it was an owl in the tree feeding on a large-spotted genet, a  carnivorous mammal related to the civet, which is nocturnal and has a striped tail. It was unbelievable to me that this owl could take down a carnivorous cat. 
Verreaux's eagle owl feeding on a large-spotted genet in a tree. Photo by Steven Shuel.
Another photo of the owl and genet. Photo by John Mirau.
After watching awhile, we left, but one of the Land Cruisers with us stayed awhile longer and saw the owl take flight with the genet - and they got pictures. Absolutely unbelievable. How it can carry that large cat is beyond me. 
The owl takes flight with the genet in tow. Photo by Esmee Tooke.
The owl carries the genet to another location where it can eat in peace. Photo by Esmee Tooke. 
Later in the trip we took a night game drive in Masai Mara NR in southern Kenya. Not too long after leaving the Serena Mara Lodge, a Verreaux's eagle owl was spotted by the people in the other vehicle I was not in. 
Verreaux's eagle owl near the Serena Mara. The pink eyelids were removed when getting rid of the severe redeye caused by taking the picture at night. Photo by John Mirau. 


  1. Great photos. I love the Joan Crawford eyebrows, better seen by clicking on the first photo to enlarge it. I was intrigued that we saw all this during the day. Aren't owls night hunters?

    1. I suspect it was caught during the evening, as both are night animals, and it just had not done what it needed to do.

  2. Seeing that owl feasting must be a once-in-a-life kind of experience.