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AOI Southern Boobook

Southern boobook Ninox novaeseelandiae

Length: 27-36cm

Wing length: 188-261mm

Tail length: 100-160mm

Weight: 146-360g

Life expectancy: probably up to 15 years in the wild

General description

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. Females often larger than males (sexual dimorphism).


Generally nocturnal, roosts by day in thick foliage. When threatened, they sit bolt upright, with feathers pressed tight against the body, and turn side-on to the source of the threat, appearing long and slender. 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. Boobooks make a distinctive 'boo-book' or 'mo-poke' sound, but they also call in a low, soft 'pot pot pot por pot pot por' during mating season.


The southern boobook generally preys on insects, particularly nocturnal beetles and moths, mice, small bats and birds.


Breeding season: September to February; mainly October
Sexual maturity: 2-3 years old
Incubation time: 35 days
Clutch size: 2 to 3 (occasionally up to 5)
Time in nest: 5 to 6 weeks, after which the parents still feed the chicks for 2 or 3 months

The southern boobook nests in holes in trees, anywhere from 1 to 20 m above the ground. The female alone incubates the eggs, but both sexes, and sometimes a second female helper, feed the chicks.

Predation & threats

The primary cause of the decline and extinction of the genetically-pure Southern Boobook was habitat loss, and in particular, the loss of trees bearing hollows suitable for nesting. Cats and rats are potential predators.

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