Grass Owl chick rescued from a veld fire and rehabilitated onto Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve in the Gauteng province of South Africa
The African Grass-owl (Tyto capensis) is a species of owl in the Tytonidae family. It is found in Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
The African Grass Owl Tyto capensis is considered Vulnerable in South Africa, with between 1 000 and 5 000 birds remaining in this country (Barnes (ed.), 2000). The species is extirpated in south-western South Africa and Lesotho, and the combined pressure from development; fire mismanagement; land clearing for agriculture; overgrazing; afforestation and roadkill are of serious concern for the species (Ansara, 2004).
Grass Owls differ in appearance from their cousins the Barn Owl in being larger, with stronger contrast between the upper and lower body. The upperparts are dark brown and the underparts whitish. The face is also rounder than that of the Barn Owl.
The species requires rank vegetation such as the tall grasses of the highveld region, usually near marshes. Here it will roost and nest on the ground, forming tunnels in the grass. It flushes reluctantly if disturbed, quickly dropping back into the grass. Grass Owls are largely nocturnal, emerging shortly after dusk.
The diet consists primarily of rodents, particularly Vlei Rats, but also birds, reptiles, frogs and insects (Hockey, Dean & Ryan (eds.), 2005)