Fraser’s eagle-owl (Bubo poensis)

GenusBubo (1)
SizeLength: 39 – 45 cm (2)

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

A little-known, diminutive species of eagle-owl, Fraser’s eagle-owl has predominantly reddish-brown plumage, dark on the head and upperparts and pale on the breast, fading to white towards the lower regions. Heavily patterned over its entire body, the back is barred with black, while the tail and flight-feathers are marked with dusky and reddish-brown bands. The upper breast has a dense array of thick black and reddish brown bars, becoming thinner and more diffuse towards the lower parts. In addition to its striking plumage, Fraser’s eagle-owl can also be distinguished by the two elongated ear-tufts that project from the top of the head, and by its pale blue-grey eyelids. The juvenile’s plumage is also heavily barred, but is generally a much lighter brownish-red on the body. Interestingly, while the call of Fraser’s eagle-owl is frequently a typical owl hoot, twowooot, it also makes a loud, purring trill, resembling the sound of a small engine (2).

Found in West and Central Africa, the range of Fraser’s eagle owl extends throughout many of the countries bordering the Gulf of Guinea, from Sierra Leone eastwards to Cameroon and southwards to Angola. In addition, its range extends eastwards through the Central African Republic and central Democratic Republic of Congo to Uganda and Rwanda (1) (2).

Fraser’s eagle owl occupies areas of lowland evergreen and secondary forest, usually around forest edges and clearings, as well as agricultural plantations (2).

A nocturnal species, Fraser’s eagle-owl commences activity at dusk, emerging from its daytime roost to hunt. Camouflaged amongst the trees, this species sits motionless on its perch scanning the forest for prey, before swooping down and snatching its victim in its talons. Fraser’s eagle-owl feeds on a variety of animals including insects, frogs, small birds and mammals such as mice, squirrels, and fruit bats (2). Because Fraser’s eagle owl swallows its food whole or in large pieces, it ingests a great deal of indigestible matter such as fur, feathers and bones. Like other owl species, this is transformed within the owl’s digestive system into a compact pellet that is regurgitated a number of hours after eating (4).

Little is known about the reproductive biology of Fraser’s eagle-owl. The few field records indicate that egg-laying occurs throughout the year and that the young probably do not become independent until around a year or more after hatching. Nests are likely to be constructed on the ground or in tree hollows (2).

At the current time, the main threat to Fraser’s 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 a large range, adapts readily to degraded areas of forest, and in some parts, such as Liberia and Cameroon, is considered to be common. On the basis of this information, at the current time, Fraser’s eagle-owl does not appear to be significantly threatened (1) (2).

Although there are no specific conservation measures in place for the Fraser’s 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).

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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: