Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

African Wood-owl (Strix woodfordii)


French: Chouette africaine German: Afrikanischer Waldkauz Spanish: Cárabo africano
Other common names: Wood Owl

Noctua Woodfordii

A. Smith

, 1834,

Knysna, south-east Western Cape, South Africa


Sometimes placed in Neotropical genus Ciccaba on basis of differences in external ear structure compared with Strix, but DNA studies show that such treatment not warranted. Birds from Sokoke Forest (SE Kenya) sometimes separated as sokokensis; populations from Central African Republic to Sudan and S DRCongo described as bohndorffi, but considered not separable from other races. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. w. nuchalis (Sharpe, 1870) – Senegambia E to S South Sudan and Uganda, S to N Angola and DRCongo (except S & E), including Bioko I.
  • S. w. umbrina (Heuglin, 1863) – Ethiopia and E South Sudan.
  • S. w. nigricantior (Sharpe, 1897) – S Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar and E DRCongo.
  • S. w. woodfordii (A. Smith, 1834) – S Angola and SE DRCongo E to SW Tanzania, S to N Botswana and E & S South Africa.
  • Descriptive notes

    30–35 cm; wingspan 80 cm; male 240–270 g, female 285–350 g. Medium-sized owl with large, round head. Buff facial disc, darkest around eyes, prominent white... read more


    Series of rapid hoots, “whoo-whu whu-uh-uh whu-ooh”, first part louder, rest in varying... read more


    Woodland and forest, from dense montane forest to bush and riparian areas, coastal forest and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Varied diet: mainly insects, including katydids, grasshoppers, crickets, cicadas, mantises, cockroaches, moths and caterpillars; also... read more


    Lays Jul–Oct, peak in Sept; Oct–Feb in W Africa. Nest in natural cavity, broken tree top, or within leaf sheaths of palms, 2... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Commonest owl of forest and woodland throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa. Global population size unknown; population... read more

    Recommended citation

    Holt, D.W., Berkley, R., Deppe, C., Enríquez Rocha, P., Petersen, J.L., Rangel Salazar, J.L., Segars, K.P., Wood, K.L. & Marks, J.S. (2019). African Wood-owl (Strix woodfordii). 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 11 December 2019).