Southern boobook

Southern boobook.
Queensland Government

Common name: southern boobook

Scientific name: Ninox novaeseelandiae

Family: Strigidae

Description: The southern boobook is the smallest and probably the most common species of owl in Australia. It is dark chocolate-brown above and rufous-brown below, heavily streaked and spotted with white. The facial disc is chocolate brown and the eyes are large and yellowish. The bill is grey with a darker tip, and the feet are grey or yellow. 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, with birds often being observed perched on open branches or in tree-tops during the day. It is also known as the 'Mopoke' because of their call, a common sound, heard throughout most of Australian at night, even in suburbia.

Habitat and distribution

Southern boobooks are found throughout most of Australia except for the driest desert areas of central and Western Australia. They occur in a variety of habitats ranging from dense forest to open desert.

Life history and behaviour

The southern boobook eat mainly insects, small mammals (such as the House Mouse, Mus musculus) and other small animals. Most prey is detected by listening and watching from a suitable tall perch. Once detected, flying prey, such as moths and small bats, are seized in mid-air, while ground-dwelling prey animals are pounced upon. Hunting usually occurs during the night; however, southern boobooks can be seen searching for food during very dull afternoons and in twilight.

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.


Listen to an audio clip of the southern boobook owl.

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