I witnessed something that was both unsettling and enthralling in my garden in Windhoek, Namibia. One bird taking on another is nothing unusual, but on this occasion, a tiny owl killing and decapitating a sweet, colourful lovebird was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
A young pearl-spotted owlet had been frequenting our garden and had become quite used to my presence. Early one morning, I was alerted to a commotion at the birdbath. So I grabbed my camera and investigated, only to find that the owlet had pinned a rosy-faced lovebird to the ground!
The hapless lovebird was still feebly flapping its wings when I arrived, but soon gave up the struggle. The owlet kept peering about as if deciding on the next course of action and eventually flew – with the lovebird trailing behind – onto the birdbath.
It then proceeded to fly into a tree a few metres away, perched briefly before flying into a palm tree before reaching its final destination – a large jacaranda tree.
Wedging the lovebird into a secure position proved no easy task, and eventually – after much fluttering and hopping about with its prey – the owlet proceeded to decapitate the fated lovebird and to swallow its head – beak and all!
It seized the rest of the carcass later that afternoon and thus had a very productive day, all in all.
This, incidentally, is the same pearl-spotted owlet which my rottweiler swallowed on a previous occasion. I will never forget the sight of two yellow feet sticking out of either side of its mouth and me galloping after dog and bird – on crutches and moon boot (I had a broken foot after clumsily falling down the stairs). I think the entire neighbourhood heard me as I screamed for the dog to let go and eventually managed to wrestle him down to the ground and prise his mouth open. The wet and bedraggled owl plopped to the ground – alive and unhurt!
The tiny bird squawked indignantly and flew off into the nearest tree – but has amazingly not packed its bags and left for good. Read more about Africa’s tiny owls here
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