Family Barn-owls (Tytonidae)

Least Concern

African Grass-owl (Tyto capensis)


French: Effraie du Cap German: Kapgraseule Spanish: Lechuza de El Cabo
Other common names: Grass Owl (when lumped with T. longimembris)

Strix Capensis

A. Smith

, 1834,

Cape Town, South Africa


Closely related to T. longimembris, and often treated as conspecific. Geographical variation minor, and race cameroonensis sometimes considered untenable, while proposed races damarensis (from Angola) and librata (SE Uganda and Kenya) normally included in nominate. Species often treated as monotypic#R#R. Two subspecies tentatively recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • T. c. cameroonensis Serle, 1949 – Cameroon Highlands.
  • T. c. capensis (A. Smith, 1834) – Congo and N Angola E to S Uganda and W Kenya, then S through W Tanzania and Zambia to C Mozambique and E South Africa (formerly W to Cape Town); two records from Ethiopia, where perhaps only a vagrant#R; recorded in error from Namibia.
  • Descriptive notes

    34–42 cm; male 370–488 g, female 431–536 g. Dark sooty olive-brown upperparts with white dots contrast distinctly with whitish to pale buff underparts... read more


    Similar to T. alba, but less strident, more muted screeches; soft, cricket-like “tk-... read more


    Open grassland, vleis, marshes, moors and moist grassland up to 3200 m; also open... read more

    Food and feeding

    Prey includes rodents, especially vlei rats (Otomys irroratus), also shrews (Soricidae), hedgehogs (Erinaceidae), elephant-shrews... read more


    Breeds at time of greatest grass cover: Oct–Jul in South Africa; Nov–May, mainly Feb–Apr, in Zimbabwe; Feb–Jun in... read more


    Sedentary. Some local movements likely, depending on food supply, as well as post-breeding... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. No estimates of global population; fewer than 5000 estimated for S Africa (South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland). Most... read more

    Recommended citation

    Bruce, M.D. & Marks, J.S. (2019). African Grass-owl (Tyto capensis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 24 August 2019).