African Stamps, Birds On Stamps, Thematic Stamps

Zimbabwe 1987 Owls Popular Birds Thematic Set

Zimbabwe 1987 Owls Popular Birds Thematic Set

Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) began issuing stamps in its current name in 1980 and although they have issued many hundreds since then this set remains one of their more popular. This is largely due to birds remaining one of the most collected themes but also the quality of the design.

The print runs on this set was not excessive either at 350,000 sets, although more of the low values were issued to meet local postal demand.

Technical Details

The design was undertaken by local artist Robert (Bob) Finch, who also painted the popular 1984 Birds of Prey set.  All values are perf 14.5 and they were issued in sheets of 50.

The set was issued on 15th April 1987 and they are denominated as follows…

12c Barred Owl (Glaucidium Capense)

Zimbabwe 12c Barred Owl (Glaucidium Capense)

Print Run 750,000

These are a small owl species (around 20-22cm) and they are relatively widespread being found throughout the country.  Unusually they tend to be quite active during the day. The IUCN currently lists them as a species of Least Concern.

18c Pearl Spotted Owl (Glaucidium Perlatum)

Zimbabwe Stamp Pearl Spotted Owl Glaucidium Perlatum

Print Run 750,000

Often referred to as Pearl Spotted Owlets due to their diminutive size. They are one of Africa’s smallest owls with the males weighing in at around 65g! Again they are fairly common throughout Zimbabwe and their diet consists mainly of Grasshoppers & Crickets.

White Faced Owl (Otus Leucotis)

White Faced Owl (Otus Leucotis)

Print Run 350,000

Also known as the Northern White Faced Owl, this is a typical nocturnal species with those lovely large yellow irises. They as their name suggests frequent more northern regions and the closest to Zimbabwe you will see them is Kenya, some 2,400km to the north!

Scops Owl (Otus Senegalensis)

Scops Owl (Otus Senegalensis)

Print Run 350,000

Unlike the owl above the Scops Owl is common throughout Zimbabwe, but being tiny, totally nocturnal and well camouflaged you wouldn’t know it! They are the continent’s smallest owl species and another that dines mainly on insects. They are also quite unusual as they often hunt moths on the wing!

First Day Covers

An Official Illustrated First Day Cover (FDC) was issued and these are normally found with the special Harare cancel depicted below. However, we have seen them with more traditional First day of Issue Cancels from Bulawayo and others must exist.

Zimbabwe 1987 Owls FDC

Plate Blocks.

There were two sheet control numbers used, plate 1A & 1B and these turn up for sale from time to time. A full set as such makes a nice display item. Getting a matching pair of the plate blocks is a little trickier though as after all there could only be 3,500 complete sets at best.

12c Plates 

Zimbabwe 12c Owls 1987 Blocks

18c Plates

Zimbabwe Owls Plate Blocks

26c Plates

Zimbabwe Owls Plate Blocks

35c Blocks

Zimbabwe 35c Blocks of four


Commercial Usage.

Zimbabwe Cover

Despite being a set aimed at the collectors market these stamps did see a fair bit of commercial usage. They turn up quite frequently off-paper but are not easy to find either on-piece with nice postmarks or on covers. Those we have seen tend to be on airmail or registered covers indicating that most of the locally used ones either ended up destroyed or being soaked off for resale in packets etc. If you have any of the lower values genuinely postally used on local covers please send us a scan.

We hope you have enjoyed this article and if you like this set you will be pleased to know that they issued two follow-up sets in 1993 & 1999.  Before you go why not check out some more of our Thematic Collecting articles.

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