Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Marsh Owl (Asio capensis)


French: Hibou du Cap German: Kapohreule Spanish: Búho moro

Otus Capensis

A. Smith

, 1834,

Waaiplaats, Martindale, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa


Genetic data suggest that A. flammeus is closest relative#R#R, despite differences in vocalizations between the two species. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. c. tingitanus (Loche, 1867) – NW Morocco.
  • A. c. capensis (A. Smith, 1834) – isolated areas in W Africa from Senegal to Chad and Cameroon; also from South Sudan and Ethiopian Highlands, and from S Congo and S DRCongo, to Namibia, N Botswana and much of South Africa (S to the Cape).
  • A. c. hova Stresemann, 1922 – Madagascar.
  • Descriptive notes

    31–38 cm; male 221–351 g, female 283–393 g (nominate race); wingspan 82–99 cm. Round-headed, with dark areas around eyes, inconspicuous ear tufts in... read more


    Loud croaking “creeouw” when flushed, when circling overhead, in courtship, and on... read more


    Variety of open habitats, including moist coastal grasslands, marshlands, montane grasslands... read more

    Food and feeding

    Extremely varied diet suggests opportunist: small mammals, including bats and mice (e.g. Lemniscomys rosalia and Mastomys... read more


    Lays Feb–Oct in N Africa, peaking in Mar; Sept–Nov in SW Africa; Apr–Jul in Madagascar. Nest a shallow, unlined scrape... read more


    Partially migratory; wanders to uncertain extent outside breeding season. May leave areas during... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. No estimate of global population size. Nominate race likely to be found where suitable habitat exists; occurs in a... read more

    Recommended citation

    Olsen, P.D. & Marks, J.S. (2019). Marsh Owl (Asio 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 13 December 2019).