The Verreaux’s eagle-owl is large at c.60cm / 1.7-2.3kgs. Both sexes are similar in appearance although the females are slightly larger. One of their most distinctive features is their pinkish eyelids. The chest is finely barred & milky grey in colour. The facial disk has similar colouring with a dark brown rim. Back & tail feathers are darker grey-brown.
They are nocturnal birds, roosting during the day in trees & mainly hunting at dusk. Male Verreaux’s eagle-owls have a deep, grunting call which sounds a little like a leopard. On the other hand, young owls often make a high-pitched whistling noise, particularly when demanding food!
Verreaux eagle-owls are opportunist hunters & their prey varies from insects to other birds & smaller mammals such as mongooses.
Breeding pairs usually mate for life & most breeding activity happens during the dry season. They use the nests of other birds. The courting ritual involves pairs sitting together, preening each other and hooting while bowing to each other with partially opened wings. On average the female lays 2 eggs, incubating them for c.38 days. Throughout this period & 3 weeks after hatching, the male brings her food. Normally only the first, largest hatchling survives. After 2 months the ‘fledgling’ leaves the nest but it is still unable to fly or catch its own prey, often climbing to a nearby perch & begging for food from its parents. If found on the ground during this vulnerable stage the youngster may ‘play dead’ as a defence mechanism. Most young remain in their parents’ territory for at least a year before becoming independent.