A nocturnal species, the spotted eagle-owl emerges at dusk from its daytime roost to commence hunting. From its perch among the bushes or tree branches it swoops silently down onto its prey, either snatching it up in its talons or pursuing it on foot along the ground. Airborne prey, such as bats, birds and insects may also be skilfully chased and caught on the wing. Owing to the spotted eagle-owl’s extensive range and the variety of habitats it occupies, it is known to prey on a vast array of different animals, with various species of invertebrate, mammal, bird, reptile and amphibian all potentially forming part of its diet. The spotted eagle-owl will also eat carrion, and is therefore frequently encountered by roadsides scavenging road kill (2). Although a formidable hunter, because of the spotted eagle owl’s relatively small size, it is sometimes preyed upon by the larger Verreaux’s eagle-owl (Bubo lacteus) (4).
The bond between breeding pairs of spotted eagle-owls is strong, and they may stay together for life. During the breeding season, which generally runs from July to February, the pair constructs a nest, which is usually little more than a scraped hollow on the ground, concealed amongst rocks, grass or under a bush. Favourable nesting sites may be re-used for many years, and some have been known to host successive generations of breeding pairs for up to 40 years. Incubation lasts for around one month and is carried out by the female, while the male brings food. The young fledge and leave the nest around 30 to 38 days after hatching, but remain dependent on their parents for another five weeks. Spotted eagle-owls become sexually mature at one year old, and may live for at least ten years (2).