The Owl Pages

Abyssinian Owl ~ Asio abyssinicus


The Abyssinian Owl is a medium-sized owl with long wings and prominent dark ear-tufts. It is also known as the African Long-eared Owl.

Photo Gallery (2 pictures)

  • Abyssinian Owl
  • Abyssinian Owl


Description: The facial disc is tawny-brown, with a blackish-brown rim. Eyes are orange-yellow. The cere is greyish-brown, and the bill is blackish. Ear-tufts are dark, and set close to the centre of the forehead.
Upperparts are dark golden-brown, mottled tawny. The outer webs of the scapulars are whitish, forming an indistinct row across the shoulder. Flight feathers are distinctly barred light and dark. The tail is greyish-brown, with broad dark bars.
Underparts are mottled and broadly streaked tawny and dark brown on the upper breast. The rest of the underparts are tawny with distinct shaft-streaks and cross-bars, dividing the the large buffish-white parts of the feathers into square blocks, giving a checkered effect.
Tarsi and toes are feathered, and the claws are blackish-horn.

Size: Length 40-44cm. Wing length 309-360mm. Tail length 182-190mm. Weight 245-500g. Females are slightly larger than males.

Habits: The Abyssinian Owl is a nocturnal bird, roosting during the daytime usually on a branch close to a tree trunk, or sometimes in groves of giant heath. Sometimes several owls may roost together.

Voice: The song of the male is a deep, drawn-out, disyllabic "who-woohm", rising slight in pitch and repeated at intervals of several seconds The female has a similar, but slightly higher-pitched and softer song. Barking notes are uttered when alarmed. A high squeal may be a begging call.

Hunting & Food: Feeds mostly on small mammals, but also other small vertebrates and insects. Hunts often on the wing, sometimes hovering over potential prey before snatching them. Also hunts from a perch.

Breeding: The Abyssinian Owl is territorial. Males claim their territory by singing. Normally breeds in stick nests of larger birds. The breeding biology of this bird is little studied, but probably similar to the Long-eared Owl.

Habitat: Giant heath, open grassland and moorland with groups of trees, forested areas in highlands, humid forested valleys and gorges in high mountains from about 2800-2900m.

Distribution: Ethiopian Highlands, Mt. Kenya, Ruwenzori Mountains, western Uganda, south to eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Range of Abyssinian Owl (Asio abyssinicus)
Range of the Abyssinian Owl Asio abyssinicus

Status: Listed as 'Least Concern' by Birdlife International.

Original Description: Guerin-Ménéville, Felix Éduard. 1848. Revue Zoologique, par la Société Cuvierienne, 6, p. 321.

References: (may contain affiliate links)
BirdLife International. 2020. "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species". IUCN.
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.
International Ornithological Congress. 2023. "IOC World Bird List - Owls".
König, Claus & Weick, Friedhelm. 2008. "Owls: A Guide to the Owls of the World (Second Edition)". Yale University Press.
König, Weick and Becking. 1999. "Owls: A Guide to the Owls of the World". Yale University Press.
Voous, Karel H.. 1988. "Owls of the Northern Hemisphere". The MIT Press.
Asio abyssinicus at Xeno-canto.

See also: Other owls from Africa, Genus: Asio.

Page by Deane Lewis. Last updated 2020-11-08. Copyright Information.