Pharaoh eagle-owl (Bubo ascalaphus)

loading
Pharaoh eagle-owl head detail
loading
Loading more images and videos...

Pharaoh eagle-owl fact file

Pharaoh eagle-owl description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderStrigiformes
FamilyStrigidae
GenusBubo (1)

One of the smaller eagle-owl species, the pharaoh eagle-owl is an attractive bird of prey with striking, large orange-yellow eyes and mottled plumage. The head and upperparts are tawny and densely marked with black and creamy-white streaks and blotches, while the underparts are pale creamy-white, with black streaks on the upper breast and fine reddish-brown vermiculations on the lower breast and belly. The face has the disc-like form typical of most owls, defined by a dark rim, the robust bill is black and hooked, and the head is crowned with small ear tufts. There are two recognised subspecies of pharaoh eagle-owl, Bubo ascalaphus ascalaphus and Bubo ascalaphus desertorum , the latter being smaller and paler with sandier colouration (2).

Size
Length: 46 – 50 cm (2)
Top

Pharaoh eagle-owl biology

A nocturnal species, the booming call of the male pharaoh eagle-owl can often be heard at sunset, as foraging activity commences (4). This species is an efficient and opportunistic predator, exploiting almost any small animal that it can find (2). Hunting normally takes place over a range of about five square kilometres, with the owl usually alighting on a rocky perch, and using its acute hearing to detect prey movements before swooping down on its victim (2) (5). Small mammals are most commonly taken, but snakes, lizards, birds, beetles and scorpions may all feature in this species’ diet (6).

The pharaoh eagle-owl forms monogamous, lifelong breeding pairs, which mate in late winter, with egg-laying taking place in February and March (2). While nests are usually constructed in shallow scrapes amongst rocks or in crevices (2), incredibly, in Egypt this species has been recorded nesting on at least one of the pyramids (7). A clutch of two eggs is usually laid, which are incubated by the female for around 31 to 36 days, while the male brings food. The young leave the nest after 20 to 35 days, but may not fully fledge for another month, and may remain dependent on the parent birds until half a year old (2).

Top

Pharaoh eagle-owl range

Distributed throughout much of North Africa and the Middle East, subspecies Bubo ascalaphus ascalaphus occupies the northern part of this species range, being found in north-west Africa and northern Egypt, east to western Iraq. By contrast, Bubo ascalaphus desertorum can be found in the Sahara Desert, from Western Sahara, east, to Sudan, as well as in Eritrea, Ethiopia and much of the Arabian Peninsula, as far south as northern Oman (1) (2).

Top

Pharaoh eagle-owl habitat

The pharaoh eagle-owl is generally found in arid habitats, including open desert plains, rocky outcrops, mountain cliffs and wadis (2) (4).

Top

Pharaoh eagle-owl status

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

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

Top

Pharaoh eagle-owl threats

The main threat to the pharaoh eagle-owl appears to be persecution, as in certain local areas it believed to be an evil spirit and is killed on sight (8). Nevertheless, this species’ widespread distribution and apparent abundance in many areas would seem to indicate that it is not currently at risk (1).

Top

Pharaoh eagle-owl conservation

While there are currently no conservation measures specifically targeting the pharaoh eagle-owl (1), it is found is several protected areas including Azraq Nature Reserve in the eastern desert of Jordan (9).

Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi is a principal sponsor of ARKive. EAD is working to protect and conserve the environment as well as promoting sustainable development in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
Top

Find out more

To learn more about owl conservation visit:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

Top

Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

Top

Glossary

Monogamous
Having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.
Nocturnal
Active at night.
Subspecies
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
Vermiculations
Fine, wavy lines of colour on bird feathers.
Wadis
Arid mountain canyons found in North Africa and the Middle East that only carry water during rains.
Top

References

  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2009)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  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 (February, 2009)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. Hellyer, P. and Aspinall, S. (2005) The Emirates: A Natural History. Trident Press Limited, United Arab Emirates.
  5. Rifai, L.B., Al-Melhim, W.N., Gharaibeh, B.M. and Amr, Z.S. (2000) The diet of the desert eagle owl, Bubo bubo ascalaphus, in the Eastern Desert of Jordan. Journal of Arid Environments, 44: 369 - 372.
  6. Llanes, I.B., Tourenq, C., Drew, C. and Al Dhaheri, S. (2008) Presence of the blue swimming crab (Portunus pelagicus) in the diet of the pharaoh eagle-owl (Bubo ascalaphus) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Journal of Raptor Research, 42: 70 - 72.
  7. African Bird Club (February, 2009)
    http://www.africanbirdclub.org/countries/Egypt/news_history.html
  8. World Owl Trust (February, 2009)
    http://www.owls.org/Species/bubo/pharaoh_eagle_owl.htm
  9. Shehab, A.H. and Ciach, M. (2008) Diet Composition of the Pharaoh Eagle Owl, Bubo ascalaphus, in Azraq Nature Reserve, Jordan. Turkish Journal of Zoology, 32: 65 - 69.
X
Close

Image credit

Pharaoh eagle-owl head detail  
Pharaoh eagle-owl head detail

© Staffan Widstrand

Staffan Widstrand
Staffan Widstrand Photography
Smedvägen 5
SE-176 71 JÄRFÄLLA
Sweden
Tel: +46 (8) 583 518 31
Fax: +46 (8) 584 903 30
photo@staffanwidstrand.se
http://www.staffanwidstrand.se

X
Close

Link to this photo

ARKive species - Pharaoh eagle-owl (Bubo ascalaphus) Embed this ARKive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to ARKive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about

X
Close

MyARKive

MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

This species is featured in:

This species is featured in Jewels of the UAE, which showcases biodiversity found in the United Arab Emirates in association with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi.

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!

Blog