Ever seen this secretive owl? New research aims to find out more

There’s a secretive owl species that occurs in the Overberg – and yet so few people know about it.


That’s because the African Grass Owl (Tyto capensis) is easily confused with the more common Barn or Marsh Owls.

But this small owl has been identified in pockets across the Overberg.


And the Overberg Crane Group has now teamed up with Bionerds to find out more about this enigmatic species in the Agulhas Plain. 

Here’s what we do know: The African Grass Owl population has fallen by 30% across South Africa in the past 10 years. They’re therefore listed as Vulnerable – with threats including habitat loss and transformation, alien vegetation and incorrect fire regimes.


The Bionerds team

Keir Lynch (Chair of the Overberg Crane Group) and Alouise Lynch (a board member) launched their Agulhas Plain African Grass Owl Research Project (partially funded by the OCG) in September 2019.

They’re working to:

– Find out more on their numbers in the     Agulhas Plain,

– See their preferred habitat,

– Map their range on the Plain,

– And establish threats here.


According to Bionerds, they’re focusing on the Agulhas Plain because there seems to be a very small remnant population here, with very little known about them. What’s more, the African Grass Owl is listed as a trigger species in Agulhas Plain-Heuningnes Estuary Important Bird and Biodiversity Area of BirdLife South Africa.

Much of the work takes place in collaboration with the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area (where there are recorded sightings of African Grass Owls) and the Grootbos Foundation. The Fynbos Trust is a co-sponsor of the project.

How can you get involved?

If you think you know of African Grass Owls in your area, or on your property, please get in touch with Bionerds.

Also, landowners with Juncus grass on their properties could well house these secretive owls. (Juncus grass is a sedge-like rush that grows in floodplain habitat). Again, should you see these owls while walking through Juncus grass, contact the Bionerds team.

From the OCG’s side: 

While we’re known as the Overberg Crane Group, in 2016 the Board decided to include a number of larger birds that occur in the Overberg in our focus area. Cranes remain our flagship species. But the OCG also works to protect Black Harriers, Secretarybirds, Denham’s Bustards and a range of other bird species.

We’ll now add the African Grass Owl to our list of birds species that we work to protect.

And we’ll keep you up to date, working with Bionerds, on the latest findings and results from the fascinating research. Stay tuned for more.

Image credit: Bionerds