restricted access Pel's Fishing-Owl
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Pel’s Fishing-Owl L: 51–63 cm (20–25") ‘Old Ginger’ is probably the most near-mythical of all the bird species in Kruger . It is an unmistakable giant, oval, ginger-rufous owl adorned with black bars and chevrons . It has large and piercing deep, dark eyes, and ‘puffy’ feathers on the neck and head that give it a rounded profile . This bird is so seldom seen that it would not normally feature in a book of this nature, but its status as one of Kruger’s flagship ‘Big 6’ birds, its striking appearance, amazing behaviour, and much-desired status amongst birders earn it inclusion . A small population of 30–40 pairs is estimated to occur along Kruger’s rivers, with most on the Olifants (6–10 pairs), Sabie (2 pairs) and Limpopo and Levuvu (12–15 pairs) Rivers . The Levuvu and Pafuri region in particular offers the best chance at finding one in Kruger, especially if you can arrange a walk with a ranger . However, it could appear along any major river, especially in times of drought, so keep your eyes peeled . The call is a deep, horn-like “boom” and a series of grunts . Young sometimes emit an eerie screeching “wheeeuuu” call . Erosion and increased river turbidity, caused by modifications to upstream river catchments, are growing threats to this iconic species . Pel’s Fishing-Owls are quite shy, whevener possible avoiding skirmishes with Verreaux’s Eagle-Owls (page 212) and African Fish-Eagles (page 189) that sometimes try to occupy their territories . It roosts, well hidden, in huge trees along permanent rivers that hold sluggish backwaters where it hunts after dark for fish, particularly catfish and pike, and sometimes amphibians . These owls are perfectly adapted for fishing, having spiky scales on unfeathered legs that enables them to grasp slippery catfish . Unlike most owls, it hunts mainly by sight, and since hearing and silent flight are unimportant, its hearing is not particularly acute and it lacks noise-reduction edgings to the feathers, making it a noisy flyer . The fish can’t hear them coming anyway! One of the BIG 6 EN Pel's Fishing-Owl 214 NIGHT BIRDS 215 ...