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Pearl-spotted Owlet - Glaucidium perlatum

More Pearl-spotted Owlet (Glaucidium perlatum) Photos >>
Calls - Glaucidium perlatum
Typical Call, Part 1 Namibia © Dave Farrow
Typical Call, Part 2 Given after part 1 and a short pause © Dave Farrow
Typical calls Rift Valley, Lake Baringo, Kenya. © Bruce Marcot

Introduction: The Pearl-spotted Owlet is a very small owl with a rounded head and no ear-tufts. The name comes from the pearl-like white spots above the shoulders of this owl.

[For help with terms used in the description, see parts of an owl. For general characteristics common to most owl species, see owl physiology.]

Description: The indistinct facial disc is pale greyish-brown with some diffuse concentric lines. Eyebrows are whitish and prominent. Eyes are pale yellow. The cere is brown and the bill yellowish-horn.
Upperparts are chestnut-brown, somewhat paler on the mantle and back, finely spotted whitish on the forehead and crown. The nape has two large sooty-brown spots that are diffusely bordered whitish (false eyes). The mantle has white spots, bordered with blackish. The scapulars have whitish outer webs and narrow dusky edges, forming a prominent white row across the shoulder. Flight feathers are barred light and dark, and the tail feathers are brown, with about six rows of black-rimmed whitish spots.
The throat is whitish, and the rest of the underparts are off-white, with the upper breast and flanks having a brownish or rufous wash. The sides of the upper breast and flanks are mottled brown and, together with the breast and belly, streaked dusky-brown.
Tarsi are feathered off-white with brown spots. The toes are brownish-yellow and sparsely bristled. Claws are horn with darker tips.

Size: Length 17-20cm. Wing length 100-118mm. Tail length 64-82mm. Weight 61-147g. Females are generally larger and heavier than males.

Habits: The Pearl-spotted Owlet is active mainly at dusk and dawn, but also during daytime and occasionally on moonlit nights. Prefers to sing from exposed perches, often from the tops of bushes or trees. When excited, this owl cocks its tail and flicks it from side to side. Flight is undulating over distance, with rapid wingbeats alternating with gliding, and swoops up to perch.

Voice: The song of the male is a series of clearly fluted whistles, rising gradually in volume and in pitch - "feu-feu-feu-fue-feu". After a short pause, there may be several explosive notes with a downwards inflection - "peeooh peeooh". The female gives a similar, slightly higher-pitched song.

Hunting & Food: This owl feeds mainly on Arthropods such as grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, spiders, and millipedes. They also take small mammals, birds, reptiles and snails. Most hunting is done from perches.

Breeding: Pairs claim territory by dueting, and normally defend only the immediate surroundings of the nest site, so neighbouring nests may be only 200-500m away. Nests are holes made by woodpeckers or barbets in tree trunks or thick branches, and may be 1.2-10m or more above the ground. The male advertises a potential site by singing near it and from the hole entrance. Courtship may be observed for 3-4 weeks before laying.
Only one brood of 2-4 white eggs is laid per year. Eggs average 31 x 25.8mm and are laid directly on the bottom of the nest hole at two day intervals. Incubation starts before the last egg is laid, and is carried out by the female alone, while the male brings her food inside the nest hole. If the female leaves the nest for a short period, the male will often slip into the hole to cover the eggs. The incubation period is 29 days.
The young hatch with closed eyes, which open at about 12 days. They are fed by both parents by night and day, and leave the nest when they are 31 days old. At this age, they are able to fly short distances, and normally hide near the nest where they are fed by the parents. After some days, they are lead away by the parents and become independent a few weeks later, and reach sexual maturity in less than one year.

Habitat: Open savanna with short grass or a small amount of ground cover, scattered trees and thorny shrubs. Also dry semi-open woodland and semi-open riverine forest with adjacent savanna. Areas with long grass are avoided. Absent from dense tropical rainforest and montane forest, as well as deserts.

Distribution: Occurs south of the Sahara in Africa from southern Mauritania across to Ethiopia and south to northern Cape Province in South Africa Absent only from deserts and rainforests.

Distribution of Pearl-spotted Owlet - Glaucidium perlatum
Distribution of the Pearl-spotted Owlet Glaucidium perlatum

Status: Uncertain. Locally common.

Original Description: Vieillot, Louis Jean Pierre. 1817. Nouveau Dictionnaire d'Histoire naturelle appliquée Aux Arts, 7, p. 26.

Subspecies: G. p. perlatum, G. p. licua


Borrow, Nik & Demey, Ron. 2001. "A guide to the birds of western Africa". Princeton University Press
Boyer and Hume. 1991. "Owls of the World". BookSales Inc
del Hoyo, Elliott & Sargatal. 1999. "Handbook of the Birds of the World: Barn Owls to Hummingbirds". Buteo Books
König, Claus & Weick, Friedhelm. 2008. "Owls: A Guide to the Owls of the World (Second Edition)". Yale University Press
Mikkola, Heimo. 2012. "Owls of the World: A Photographic Guide". Bloomsbury

Page Information:

Page compiled by . Page last updated 2013-09-13 Owl Species ID: 190.030.000

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