African barred owlet
Glaucidium capense -Kruger National Park, South Africa-8.jpg
In Kruger National Park, South Africa
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae
Genus: Glaucidium
G. capense
Binomial name
Glaucidium capense

(Smith, 1834)

The African barred owlet (Glaucidium capense) is a species of small owl in the family Strigidae found in much of southern, central and eastern Africa. The taxon may be four species rather than a single species.


A small owlet that shows some geographic variation (see Taxonomy). The nominate subspecies is greyish brown above with fine buff bars and a narrow white eyebrow, The scapulars and greater wing coverts have white outer webs with dark brown tips and form a white stripe across the shoulder and the folded wing. The brown chest is finely barred with buff and the breast and flanks are white with brown spots. Underwing coverts, legs and vent are white, while the flight feathers and tail are brown barred with rufous. Bill and cere are dull greenish yellow and the eyes, legs and feet are yellow. Length is about 17 cm (6.7 in) and wingspan is about 40 cm (16 in).


The call of the African barred owlet is a series of single pitched purring notes.

Distribution and habitat

G. capense is endemic to Southern and Eastern Africa from Kenya and the Eastern Cape to Western Angola.

The African barred owl occurs in open habitats with trees such as gallery forest, woodland, forest edge and secondary growth.


The African barred owl is partly diurnal. Calling occurs mainly at dusk and dawn but also through the night on calm and clear nights. Frequently observed on open perches scanning for prey, even during the day. Roosts within cover, often in a natural cavity in a tree. If they are detected by other birds during the day they will often be subjected to mobbing. Feeds on small mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs, insects, scorpions and caterpillars which are normally caught following a short flight from a perch.

Both sexes sing to proclaim their territory, most frequently before breeding. The nest site is usually a tree cavity 3–6 m (9.8–19.7 ft) from the ground. 2–3 eggs are laid in September to November. The young are fed by both parents but only in the dark, fledgling after 30–33 days and becoming independent after 7–12 months.


There are currently three subspecies recognised but many authorities recognise each of these as a separate species. The subspecies are: