African wood owl in Taita Hills Kenya

African wood owl looking for Taita mountain dwarf galago, that just escaped from him.

In Taita Hills of Kenya African wood owl (Strix woodfordii) is quite common. Owl couple keep contact with each other by calling. Interestingly male and female can counter call with similar calls, or female may use different call.

African wood owl from Ngangao Forest Taita Hills in 2019.

Counter calling of African wood owl couple from Taita Hills.

African wood owl male and female counter calling

Male makes a series of rapid, clear hoots, and the female answers with higher pitched, more leisurely hoots.

This is spectrogram of the part of calling sequence above made with Raven 1.6 Pro. On vertical axel you can see frequency and on horizontal axel the time. African wood owl hoots have fundamental (lowest) harmonic (lowest line) bellow 1 kHz. Calls coming near the recorder have stronger spectrogram. Above African wood owl there is another bird? with long chirr, and above that there are cicadas. So owls and cicadas can be easily heard simultaneously, as they use different frequencies.

Different call of a female African wood owl from Taita Hills

Hoot of a African wood owl female with nice lowering pitch
Spectrogram of a female African wood owl, a single hoof with slight rise in the middle. Given also as a response to call above. Call is using frequency about one kHz. Black belt between 5-12 kHz are cicada choir.

African wood owls in Taita Hills are about the size of the crow, 30-35 cm, weighing 240-350 grams. African wood owl eats mainly insects.

African wood owl looking for prey. Taita Hills 2019.

They can’t see red flashlight, which has enabled me to watch them without them without owls paying any attention for me.

African wood owl looking for insects or small mammals to prey on. Taita Hills 2019.

Mainly insectivorous, however they also catch small mammals… In Taita Hills African wood owls hunt also Taita mountain dwarf galagos that are almost extinct. For dwarf galagos this owl may be the ultimate reason for extinction.

From the behind coloring has beautiful shades of brown. Taita Hills 2019.

Reason for extremely low population numbers in dwarf galagos is loss of habitat, as forests have been cleared for fields. However, in these small remaining patches of forest, the probability of dwarf galago being hunted by wood owl increases. They share same territories every night. Dwarf galagos are dependent on refugee sites in hollow trees. Only very old trees are have hollows or are completely hollow.

Distribution and conservation status

African wood owl has extremely large distribution in Africa. Conservation status is Least Concern LC. Populations seem to be stable. However there is no long term research about the species


Distribution map of African wood owl by BirdLife International. BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Strix woodfordii. Downloaded from on 08/05/2020.

Geographic range from Avibase with four subspecies: These subspecies have considerable differences in their coloration.

  • Strix woodfordii woodfordii: southern Angola to southern Democratic Republic of the Congo, southwestern Tanzania, Botswana, and South Africa
  • Strix woodfordii nuchalis: Senegambia and Bioko Island to South Sudan, Uganda, western Democratic Republic of the Congo, and northern Angola
  • Strix woodfordii umbrina: Ethiopia and eastern South Sudan
  • Strix woodfordii nigricantior: southern Somalia to Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, and eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo
African wood owl has horizontal stripes. Taita Hills 2019.


Genus Strix was created by Linnaeus 1758 for earless owls. Strix owls do not have ear tufts. There are 22 species of genus Strix in the world. They are medium to large in size and live in forests. Strix owls are found around the world. African wood owl has four subspecies as described earlier.

Here is Ural owl (Strix uralensis) from my home. This owl was found dead by my father in Finland 1970 and stuffed. Ural owl is much bigger than African wood owl. In Finland these owls are known for their strong protective behavior against people who put rings to baby owls feet. As an adaptation to cold climate the feet have feathers also.

African wood owl scratching his ear. Taita Hills 2019.


Birdlife African wood owl:

Avibase African wood owl:

Iucn Red Lis Assessment:

BirdLife International. 2016. Strix woodfordiiThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22689166A93220349. Downloaded on 08 May 2020.

Categories:All posts, Dwarf galagos, ForestsTags: , , ,

1 comment

  1. Hyvää äitien päivää

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