Recently specialist Ker & Downey Botswana guide 'OP,' was fortunate to spot one of the most beautiful residents of the Okavango Delta, the Pel's Fishing Owl. It occurred to him as he observed the owl, that while they are often listed as an important 'box to tick' while visiting the Okavango, most people know little about them. He endeavoured to present some facts about this unusual owl, and why Kanana is the destination for you, should you wish to see one!
The Pel's fishing owl (Scotopelia peli) is one of the largest owl species in the world, with a distinctive ginger barred plumage and large, often completely black eyes. Their call is described as "a deep, sonorous, horn-like boom, first a single and then a higher pitched “huhuhu" and is a truly unique sound and once heard echoing through the night, it is not easily forgotten! They feed predominantly on frogs and fish snatched, much like the African fish eagle, from the surface of the water, though as this occurs at night, it seems more impressive!
The owl roosts and hunts from large trees overhanging slow moving waters, which describes perfectly the many wooded islands and river edges throughout the Okavango. The delta provides a perfect habitat for these birds and while they are not listed as endangered, being a nocturnal species, combined with their residing in often inaccessible wetland areas means they are rarely seen.
The central area of the Okavango in which the Kanana concession is found, has long been recognized as an ideal area to search for the Pel's fishing owl. The myriad of small rivers and streams filled with crystal clear waters, dotted with heavily wooded islands and rich riverine forest is perfect fishing owl habitat. The tree lines are easily explored using the traditional canoe or mokoro, and on foot walking along the edge of the many islands. The exploration and searching the waterways on foot and by mokoro adds an additional dimension to your safari. Guides use their local knowledge to identify common nesting areas of mating owls, which then allows them to narrow down their search areas. The chances of sightings during the day of roosting adults and if one is lucky, even a chick or juvenile offspring are excellent and this makes Kanana an ideal location from which to seek out this special bird and tick off one more 'box!'
Photograph taken by Corinna Horsthemke (ATI Holidays)