Southern Boobook Owl Click to enlarge image
Southern Boobook Owl Image: Paul Balfe
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Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    novaeseelandiae
    Genus
    Ninox
    Family
    Strigidae
    Order
    Strigiformes
    Class
    Aves
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    28 - 36 cm long

The Southern Boobook is the smallest and most common owl in Australia. Like other owl species, the Southern Boobook is nocturnal. They are often observed perched on an open branch or tree-top, emitting a distinctive 'boo-book' or 'mo-poke'.

Identification

The Southern Boobook is the smallest and most common owl in Australia. It is identified by its plumage, which is dark chocolate-brown above and rufous-brown below, heavily streaked and spotted with white. The bill is grey with a darker tip, and the feet are grey or yellow. The facial disc is chocolate brown and the eyes are large and yellowish. Tasmanian birds are smaller and more heavily spotted with white, while birds of the Cape York rainforests are slightly larger and darker. Young Southern Boobooks are almost entirely buff-white below, with conspicuous dark brown facial discs. Like other owl species, the Southern Boobook is nocturnal. Birds are often observed perched on an open branch or tree-top.

The similarly plumaged Barking Owl, N. connivens, is more grey-brown, and has streaks rather than spots on the underparts. The Barking Owl is also larger, measuring 35 to 45 cm.

Habitat

Southern Boobooks are seen in a variety of habitats from dense forest to open desert, including woodlands, rural, heath and urban habitats.

Distribution

Southern Boobooks are found throughout mainland Australia and Tasmania, and on some coastal islands. Closely related species are found in New Zealand, New Guinea and Indonesia.



Feeding and diet

The Southern Boobook feeds on insects, small mammals and other small animal species. Feeding takes place mostly at night but some afternoon and morning activity may occur, especially on dull days. Most prey is detected by listening and watching from a suitable tall perch. Once detected, flying prey, such as moths and small bats, is seized in mid-air, while ground-dwelling prey is pounced upon.

Communication

A distinctive 'boo-book' or 'mo-poke'.

Breeding behaviours

The Southern Boobook's nest is normally a tree hollow, which is usually sparsely lined with wood shavings, leaves and small twigs, but may be left bare. The female alone incubates the eggs, but both sexes, and sometimes a second female helper, feed the young.

  • Breeding season: September to February; mainly October
  • Clutch size: 2 to 3 (occasionally up to 5)
  • Time in nest: 42 days

References

  • Higgins, P.J. (ed) 1999. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds, Volume 4 (Parrots to Dollarbird). Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
  • Strahan, R. (ed) 1994. Cuckoos, Nightbirds and Kingfishers of Australia. Angus and Robertson/Australian Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney.