The southern boobook owl is the smallest species of owl found in Australia. They were previously classed as the same species as the morepork of New Zealand but these are now considered separate species.
Across the back they have dark brown feathers while on the underside they are rufous brown. This is patterned with may streaks of white. This mottled coloration provides camouflage while resting in the trees.
They have a hooked beak which is colored grey with a dark tip and is used to tear their prey.
Their coloration and size is highly variable across their range with those in the south tending to be smaller.
The eyes are colored yellowish with a large black pupil. Around the eyes is a dark colored face mask.
They have yellow legs and feet which end with powerful toes that each have a large, curved black talon for grabbing prey.
These animals measure between 23 and 36cm (9-14.2in) long with a wingspan of 70-85cm (27.6-33.5in) across. Their weight averages 150-175g (5-6oz).
Southern boobook owls are carnivores. They will feed on a range of insects, small mammals such as mice and small birds.
Owls swallow their prey whole including items such as bone and feathers which are indigestible. These form a pellet which the owl will regurgitate.
They are agile fliers which can grab prey while flying.
These birds will be seen near street lights which attract insects and provide an easy food source.
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Australia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Timor-Least provide a home for the southern boobook owl. In Australia their range covers most of the country.
They make their home in forest, shrubland and desert. Their main requirement is trees in which they can nest. Those in Queensland live in dense rainforest.
Southern boobook owls have also adapted to live near humans.
Breeding takes place from late winter to early summer.
Their nest is made in a tree hollow that is lined with wood shavings, twigs and leaves. The female alone will incubate the two to three eggs over the 35 day incubation period. While she incubates the eggs the male will bring her food. These are colored white and round in shape.
Both the male and female will work to feed the chicks. They remain in the nest for 42 days.
Once they leave the nest they still require care from their parents for two to three months.
They are primarily nocturnal but they will also hunt in the afternoon or early morning on occasion. During the day they will typically rest in a rock crevice or tree hollow. Some rest on tree branches but often they will be harassed by smaller birds if they do this.
Their distinctive call is a two toned ‘boo-book’ or ‘mo-poke’ call.
Predators and Threats
Introduced predators such as the domestic cat and rats will prey upon southern boobook owls.
Humans affect the population of boobook owls through habitat destruction which removes the tree hollows they need to nest in.
They are also known as the mopoke due to their call though this name is more often applied to the related species in New Zealand.
Other alternative names for the southern boobook include the spotted owl and marbled owl.
Southern boobook owls are the smallest owl found in Australia.
By Patrick_K59 – Boobook Owl (Ninox boobook), CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45909820
By Brisbane City Council – Boobook Owl, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23613876
By Vicki Nunn – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38771355
By Wampy – Picasa Web Albums, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11933863
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Australian Reptile Park. 2020. Boobook Owl – Australian Reptile Park. [online] Available at: <https://www.reptilepark.com.au/boobook-owl/> [Accessed 29 December 2020].
Walkaboutpark.com.au. 2020. Southern Boobook Owl. [online] Available at: <http://walkaboutpark.com.au/2-uncategorised/166-southern-boobook-owl> [Accessed 29 December 2020].
Worldofowls.com. 2020. Boobook Owl – World Of Owls. [online] Available at: <http://www.worldofowls.com/boobook-owl/> [Accessed 29 December 2020].
BirdLife International. 2016. Ninox boobook. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T62023787A95185747. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T62023787A95185747.en. Downloaded on 28 December 2020.
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