Although mammals are the target for the Snapshot Serengeti camera-trap project we do on occasion capture other things, humans, vehicles, reptiles and birds. The most common of the birds is probably the larger ground patrolling species like kori bustard, secretary bird, guinea-fowl or the birds that are attracted to mammals like oxpeckers, egrets. It is actually surprising just how many species we have picked up over the years.
One of my favourites though has to be the owls. Always such fascinating creatures they are often loved but often feared too. Their nocturnal, silent flight lends to the mystery but anyone who has been around owls much will know that they can be noisy birds when it comes to calls.
So who might we encounter in the snapshot Serengeti camera-trap images. Well there are 9 species that call the Serengeti home:
- Barn owl – Tyto alba
- African marsh owl – Asio capensis
- Spotted eagle owl – Bubo africanus
- Verreaux’s eagle owl –Bubo lacteus
- African wood owl – Strix woodfordii
- Pear-spotted owlet – Glaucidium perlatum
- Southern white-faced scops owl – Ptilopsis granti
- African barred owlet – Glaucidium capensis
- African scops owl – Otus senegalensis
The barn owl found on every continent except Antarctica is probably familiar to us all. The spotted eagle owl, a medium sized owl is just that, heavily spotted and barred overall greyish. The similar sized wood owl sticks to more densely wooded areas and is a darker chocolate brown. This is a rare bird for the snapshot habitat.
The largest owl we will encounter is the Verreaux’s eagle owl, pale grey the most obvious distinguishing feature is bizarrely its eye lids, they are bright pink. Unmistakeable if you get a good view.
As for the small owls two are actually reasonably active during the day, pearl-spotted and barred owlets. Quite hard to tell apart the pearl-spotted has white spotting on its back where as the barred has, you guessed it, a barred back. However if you are ever lucky enough to hear a pearl-spot in the wild they are unmistakable. It has a slow single note, rising pitch call that builds up to deflating drawn out descending notes. Hard to describe but its other name is the orgasm bird!
We would be lucky to pick up a scops owl, the smallest of all these owls. It remains hidden in trees all day and hunts insects at night.
The African marsh owl is unusual in that it roosts on the ground, tunnelling into long grass. Superficially it resembles a barn owl but the pale facial disc is rounder than the heart shape of a barn owl. They mostly eat rodents.
The white-faced scops owl has a very striking white face framed by black bands. The rest of its body is pale grey. Size wise it is slightly bigger than the two owlets.
If you want to see more snapshot images of birds follow this link where one of our moderaters has put together some great stuff: