Bloemfontein 10 May 22: Museum scientist involved in the discovery of the first record of Verreaux’s Eagle Owl in Bloemfontein.
This exciting discovery was made at Florisbad Quarternary Research Station by Dawie de Swardt, National Museum ornithologist and Arrie Klopper of the Department of Biochemistry, Genetics & Microbiology, University of Pretoria, while doing fieldwork. The field work involved capturing, recording, and ringing birds at Florisbad as part of a broader scientific project.
On Monday evening they noticed Blouvalkies (Black-shouldered kites) mobbing an owl perching on a branch of a Blue Gum tree in an attempt to drive it off. On Wednesday afternoon the owl was again spotted in the area. Arrie used a mouse as a lure in his special trap designed for birds of prey in order to capture the owl. The owl was captured in order to ring it and record its biometric data. They were amazed to discover that it was a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl (Reuse Ooruil). This is one of the largest owls found in Africa.
Verreaux’s Eagle Owls’ most distinctive feature is the bright pink colour of their eyelids which no other owl species share. The closest known population of the Verreaux’s Eagle Owl is at Kimberley as well as to the north at the Sandveld Nature Reserve at Hoopstad. This means that this owl is completely outside its known distribution area. It is the first Bird Atlas (SABAP2) record of a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl in the Bloemfontein area close to the Soetdoring Nature Reserve at the Modder River.