The marsh owl is 35?37 centimetres (14?15 in) in length with an 82?99 centimetres (32?39 in) wingspan. It is similar to the slightly larger short-eared owl. It has yellow eyes with a black iris, and short ear-tufts which are not usually visible. It is distinguished from its relative by its dark brown plumage, and almost unstreaked upperparts. It is long winged, and glides slowly on stiff wings when hunting. It will often perch on the ground or low posts.

Habitat and Distribution

It is a mainly resident breeder in Africa and Madagascar.


It hunts over open country, often by day. Its food is mainly insects, but it will take small mammals, such as rodents and birds.


Marsh owls nest on the ground on open marshy areas, laying 2-4 eggs amongst tussocks.

Calls and Songs

The call is a frog-like kaar or rasping whistle `shrss`.