Backyard Birds

Southern White-faced Owl

The Southern White-faced Owls (Ptilopsis grant) was formerly regarded as a subspecies of the Northern White-faced Owl (P. leucopsis) but the two are now commonly treated as separate species.

Distribution / Range

The range of the Southern White-faced Owl is restricted to the southern half of Africa, extending from Gabon eastwards to southern Kenya and southwards to Namibia and northern South Africa.

It inhabits savanna and dry woodland. It is usually seen alone or in pairs.


It is 22-28 centimetres long and weighs 185-220 grams.

The upperparts are grey with dark streaks and there are white spots on the scapular feathers. The underparts are whitish with dark streaks. The head has two short “ear” tufts with black tips. The face is white with a black border and black around the large orange eyes.

Juvenile birds have greyish faces.

Similar Species Id: The Southern White and Northern White-faced Owl look alike, except the Northern White-faced Owl is usually paler and browner with reduced streaking below.

Calls / Vocalizations

The call is a series of fast, bubbling hoots. It is uttered at night and frequently repeated. The Northern White-faced Owl has a very different two-note call.

Nesting / Breeding

The eggs are usually laid in the old nest of another bird.

The clutch contains two or three eggs which are incubated for about 30 days.

The young birds leave the nest about a month after hatching.

Diet / Feeding

Their diet consists of large invertebrates as well as some small mammals, birds, and reptiles.

More Owl Information


Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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