First Ever Sighting of Pel's Fishing-Owl at Chintheche

Aug 14, 2011 |   |   | 
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Location: Chintheche Inn, Lake Malawi, Malawi
Date: 13 August 2011
Observers: Chintheche Inn staff and guests
Photographers: Fiona and Robert Maida

In the early morning hours of 13 August 2011, we were first alerted by a distinct high-pitched wailing call coming from the denser trees near Chintheche Inn's pool area. The characteristic call of a fledgling Pel's Fishing-Owl is described in Robert's 6th Edition as an eerie eeeyoow. This is exactly what we were hearing. Upon further investigation something large, orange and with intense black eyes was starting down at us - a juvenile Pel's!

Today, the incidence of Pel's Fishing-Owl along Lake Malawi's shorelines is very low, and in some areas totally absent. Its Malawian stronghold seems to be along the Shire River in Liwonde National Park much further to the south; in any event, they seem pretty difficult to find north of Monkey Bay. Even surveys specifically looking for this sought-after species at Senga Bay have been unsuccessful in any confirmed sightings at known roosting and nest sites. While there are no doubt resident birds in the northern reaches of the Lake these seem to be only in extended areas, with few human settlements or fishing villages and with sufficient forest and quiet tributaries.

This sighting therefore is the first record of this species for us and certainly a great find. Indeed, the large trees and quiet surrounds at Chintheche may just become the perfect permanent haven for this bird. And our Chintheche Reforestation Project may further increase suitable habitat for this owl species in the future. Read more here about this project.

We are hoping that this individual will stick around to excite many more visitors and birders. Who says a Chintheche visit is just about lazing on the beach!

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