Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Pel's Fishing-owl (Scotopelia peli)


French: Chouette-pêcheuse de Pel German: Bindenfischeule Spanish: Cárabo pescador común

Strix peli


, 1850,

Ashanti, Ghana


Proposed forms salvagoraggii (from NW Ethiopia) and fischeri (from E Kenya) are synonyms of peli. Monotypic.


Locally from Senegambia E to Benin, and from Nigeria S across Congo Basin and C Africa to Botswana, Mozambique and E South Africa; also SE Sudan, N South Sudan, Ethiopia, S Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania; status in S Mali, Burkina Faso and S Niger unclear.

Descriptive notes

51–61 cm; female 2055–2325 g (n = 4); wingspan 150–153 cm. Largest fishing-owl. Round head with long “loose” feathering, no ear tufts,... read more


Male gives sonorous, horn-like hoot, usually followed by deep grunt, “hoooommmm-hut”,... read more


Forested edges of lowland perennial rivers, swamps and lakes, estuaries, mature secondary forests;... read more

Food and feeding

Mainly fish, e.g. Clarias spp.; also frogs, crabs and freshwater mussels; occasional large insects and once a young (55 cm long)... read more


Lays Oct–Jun, peak Feb–Apr; timed to ensure brood-feeding at period when water level falling and prey concentrated. Monogamous... read more


Resident, but with some local wandering recorded, e.g. in Malawi. Seasonal fluctuations in water... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Common in Congo Basin, in Botswana (Okavango delta), and in swamps of Caprivi Strip in NE Namibia and also those in C... 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., Kirwan, G.M. & Marks, J.S. (2019). Pel's Fishing-owl (Scotopelia peli). 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 8 December 2019).