Colours of Wildlife: The African Barred Owlet

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Willem is a wildlife artist based in South Africa. He says "My aim is simply to express the beauty and wonder that is in Nature, and to heighten people's appreciation of plants, animals and the wilderness. Not everything I paint is African! Though I've never been there, I'm also fascinated by Asia and I've done paintings of Asian rhinos and birds as well. I may in future do some of European, Australian and American species too. I'm fascinated by wild things from all over the world! I mainly paint in watercolours ... but actually many media including 'digital' paintings with the computer!"

Colours of Wildlife: The African Barred Owlet: Glaucidium capensel

This lovely little owl belongs to the genus Glaucidium, same as the Pearl-spotted Owlet, which was my very first illustration for Colours of Wildlife! This genus occurs in Africa and Asia, with many species, all being on the small side. They are related to the Little Owl, Athene noctua, of Eurasia and North Africa, and the Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia, of the Americas.

The Barred Owl is quite rare – but I’ve seen it! In the Kruger National Park. It has a purring call, by which I managed to track it down. It is about the size of a dove. It nests in natural cavities in trees … it is a bit too big to use old woodpecker holes, since the South African woodpeckers are all quite small. It mainly eats small mammals, birds and insects. Not much else is known of its behaviour or breeding. It occurs in woodlands or forests of South- to East Africa, with an isolated population in the Albertine Rift mountains (the most prominent of which are the Ruwenzori Mountains), and another one in the rainforests of West Africa. Those populations might constitute distinct subspecies or even species, sometimes called the Chestnut Owlet. There is also a population in the Eastern Cape that is separated by many hundreds of kilometers from the next closest population in Kwazulu-Natal, which also might constitute a separate subspecies or species. It would really help if we could know more about the internal genetic diversity of this species or species complex.

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