I spent many nights learning the sounds of the Pearl-spotted Owlet as we tromped through the dark African woods, searching for this sweet little owl. Although we could hear it, and it seemed nearby, we never did find it.
I returned home, however, having thoroughly learned one of its calls–could mimic it by whistling. Five ascending whistle notes to a crescendo, and then a quick descent.
A small owl, only found in Africa, it is 7.5 inches (19 cm) long, and found in Kenya and other sub-Saharan areas. These are not baby owls, they are just small owls. Glaucidium perlatum is especially vocal at dusk and can be seen during the day (if you’re lucky) and at night.
When I returned to Africa five years later, I went out with the same guide, this time we were in Zambia. One day we were having a lunch break under some trees, and whooooo do you think was in the tree looking down at us?
All that we went through the time before, whistling and searching, headlamps and flashlights, enduring mosquito bites and thorny brambles…and easy peasy right above us is the pearl-spotted owlet. Even posed for photos.
I still do my pearl-spotted owlet whistle in our American forests. It does not attract owls, ever, but I do it for the delight of hearing this clear whistle penetrating through the dark woods. And, admittedly, it’s a sweet reminder of the African owl that I finally got to see.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander