Pearl-spotted owlet
Pearl-spotted owlet (Glaucidium perlatum diurnum).jpg
G. p. diurnum
Chobe National Park, Botswana
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae
Genus: Glaucidium
G. perlatum
Binomial name
Glaucidium perlatum

(Vieillot, 1817)

The pearl-spotted owlet (Glaucidium perlatum) is an owl that breeds in Sub-Saharan Africa. This species is a part of the larger grouping of owls known as typical owls, Strigidae, which contains most species of owl. The other grouping is the barn owls, Tytonidae.


The pearl-spotted owlet is small (about 19 cm (7.5 in)) and stocky, with a longish tail. The upperparts are rich brown, heavily spotted with white and showing a white shoulder bar. The underparts are white, streaked with brown. The facial disc is white and the eyes are yellow, it has been said to have a “cross” expression. There are two eyespots on the nape. Sexes are similar, but young birds are paler with a shorter tail and may have more prominent eye spots on the nape. The flight is deeply undulating.


The commonest call is a whistled tu-tu-tu-tu-tu-tu-tu but like other owlets it has a varied repertoire, including an explosive, drawn out “whet” which may be an alarm call.

Distribution and subspecies

The pearl-spotted owlet occurs in sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal in the west, east to Sudan and Eritrea, south to eastern South Africa and then north through Namibia to western Angola. It avoids dense rainforests, montane forests and treeless areas such as deserts.

Two subspecies are currently recognised:

  • Glaucidium perlatum perlatum: Senegal and Gambia to western Sudan
  • Glaucidium perlatum licua: Eastern Sudan and Ethiopia to northern South Africa, Angola and Namibia.


The pearl-spotted owlet is a common and easily seen bird in open woodland and savannah. It nests in a hole in a tree, such as a disused barbet nest, laying 2-4 eggs. The male sings from the entrance of the cavity before breeding then calls from within it, making a series of wailing notes. This species often hunts by day, and can be readily located by the small birds that mob it while it is perched in a tree. It hunts a variety of small prey, including small vertebrates and arthropods such as grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, spiders, and millipedes. Most hunting is done from perches.