Unused ears

Sep 15, 2018

Jeandré Nothnagel, our Head Ranger at Kuzuko Lodge explores our often overlooked feathery friends.

Owls are feared by some, but admired by most. In the avian world, these birds are the apex predators of the night. Their vision and hearing is well developed, as a result of having large eyes and ears on top of their head, but wait, are those tufts really ears used for hearing?

Incredibly enough these tufts are just erectile feathers, there is a gap between the ear tufts and the ear opening. The ears of some owls are found at different positions on either side of the head, allowing these creatures to triangulate sounds and pinpoint where they originate from.

The biggest ears, of course, belong to the elephant and there is a correlation between increased owl activity and the presence of elephants. Breaking down trees isn’t just devastating to the environment, but also aids in disrupting the homes of rodents, a primary food source for owls.

Kuzuko Lodge is home to four owl species namely: the Spotted Eagle-owl, Cape Eagle-owl, Barn Owl and the African Scops Owl. The latter was recently submitted to SABAP 2 (mapping of bird distribution) as a brand new record for the area, however isolated populations occur throughout the Eastern Cape.

Despite this officially being a new record, these little mystery birds have been present for at least five years in the area, but had never been reported before. Historically, Verraux Eagle-owls were photographed in the area, but in the past couple of years, have seemingly disappeared for reasons unknown.

The question now remains: would you be willing to put your ears to the test and help your ranger locate another new owl on the reserve?