Akun eagle-owl (Bubo leucostictus)

French: Grand-duc tacheté
GenusBubo (1)
SizeLength: 40 – 46 cm (2)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

One of the smaller eagle-owl species, the Akun eagle-owl’s head and upperparts are predominantly dark to reddish-brown, with a patterning of pale, dusky brown bars on the wings and back, and white markings around the shoulders. The head is distinctively crowned with two large ear tufts, which are dark brown with white spots, while the large, round eyes are pale yellow. The upper breast is light reddish-brown and marked with dark bars, while the rest of the underparts are white, with reddish-brown vermiculations and large blackish spots. In contrast to the adult, the juvenile Akun eagle-owl has a whitish head and body, with reddish-brown barring and brown wings and tail. Although the Akun eagle-owl’s usual call is a low, accelerating, cluck-like rattle, when alarmed it produces an unusual quacking sound (2).

The Akun eagle-owl has a patchy range that extends throughout many of the West African countries bordering the Gulf of Guinea, from Guinea, west to Cameroon and south to Angola. Its range also includes the Central African Republic and northern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo (1) (2).

The Akun eagle-owl occupies lowland primary and secondary rainforest, predominantly around forest edges and clearings, but also along the borders of rivers and on forested river islands (2).

A nocturnal species, the Akun eagle-owl emerges at dusk from its daytime roost to hunt (2). Unlike many related owl species of the genus bubo, which are powerful predators of a variety of vertebrate species (2) (4), the Akun eagle owl apparently feeds almost exclusively on insects. Small feet and a relatively weak bill prevent it from tackling larger prey, so the Akun eagle-owl concentrates its hunting activities on beetles, cicadas and locusts, taking them on the wing or plucking them from foliage. Prey is then brought back to a perch and held in the feet, while being nipped it into small pieces with the bill (2).

Little is known about the Akun eagle-owl’s reproductive biology. In West Africa it appears to lay eggs around the period from November to January, and nestlings have been recorded in Liberia between February and April. Like some other eagle-owl species, the Akun eagle-owl constructs its nest on the ground (2).

Currently, the main threat to the Akun eagle-owl is habitat loss and degradation, resulting from the intense logging activity occurring in many parts of its range (2) (5). Nevertheless, this species has an extensive range and in some parts, such as Liberia, it is considered common (1) (2). Although this seems to imply that the Akun eagle-owl is not significantly threatened (1) (2), without a detailed population survey, there is a risk that the Akun eagle-owl could be more seriously affected by habitat loss than currently realised (2).

Although there are no specific conservation measures in place for the Akun eagle-owl at present (1), it is found within a number of protected areas throughout its range (5), including the Gamba Protected Areas Complex in Gabon (6). This collection of eight protected areas, two of which have National Park status, is helping to preserve Gabon’s unique wildlife from logging and hunting (6). Despite this protection, more information must be gathered about the population and breeding biology of the Akun eagle-owl to ensure that its population is not in need of more specific conservation measures (2).

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  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2009)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1999) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 5: Barn-Owls to Hummingbirds. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. CITES (January, 2009)
  4. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  5. BirdLife International (January, 2009)
  6. Angehr, G., Schmidt, B., Njie, F., Christy, P., Gebhard, C., Tchignoumba, L. and Ombenotori, M.A.E. (2006) Bird surveys in the Gamba Complex of protected areas, Gabon. Bulletin of the Biological Society of Washington, 12: 327 - 352. Available at: