Barking Owl

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Common Name: Barking Owl
Scientific Name: Ninox connivens

Size: 15.3-17.7 inches (39-45 cm); Wingspan: 33.3-47.2 inches (85-120 cm)

Habitat: Oceania; widely distributed throughout Australia (but more common in Northern Australia), but are absent from central Australia, the Nullarbor Plain and from Tasmania and the large offshore islands. Barking Owls are also found in New Guinea and the Moluccas.

They are usually found in habitats that are dominated by eucalytpus species, particularly red gum, and, in the tropics, paperbark species. They prefer woodlands and forests with a high density of large trees and particularly sites with hollows that are used by the owls as well as their prey. Roost sites are often located near waterways or wetlands.

Status: Vulnerable to Endangered. Global population: Unknown amount of adult individuals, but he population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction and degradation through overgrazing. Loss of hollow-bearing trees and firewood harvesting impacts on the species by removing nesting and roost sites as well as habitat for hollow-dependent prey such as gliders, possums and parrots. In Victoria, it was listed on the 2007 Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna as ‘endangered’, as it was estimated that there were only 50 pairs left. The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010 lists the barking owl southern sub-species as 'near threatened'.

Diet: Mostly small to medium-sized mammals, birds, reptiles and insects. Diet is largely insects during the non-breeding season, with larger prey more commonly taken when breeding.

Prey is located either from the air or from an exposed perch. Most hunting is performed in the first few hours of the night and the last hours before dawn. Occasionally, birds may even be seen hunting in daylight. The Barking Owl prefers to hunt in clearings, including waterways and other open areas.

Nesting: Males and females are alike however males tend to be up to 8% heavier than females. The forehead, crown and facial disc is grayish-brown, with the facial disc having an indistinct rim. Eyes are yellow, the cere is grayish, and the bill is grayish-horn to blackish. The back and mantle are smoky grayish-brown and rather uniform. The scapulars have large whitish areas on the outer webs, forming a whitish row across the shoulder. Wing-coverts are smoky gray-brown with small whitish spots. The primaries and secondaries are slightly darker than the wing-coverts, and are barred with very narrow whitish bars. The tail feathers are gray-brown with 5-6 narrow whitish bars. The throat is whitish-buff, and streaked grayish-brown. Throat feathers are erectile giving a bearded appearance. Under parts are creamy-buff to whitish, with prominent grayish-brown streaks. There is considerable individual variation here, with streaks varying from narrow to broad, and from darker to paler. The tarsi are feathered and the toes are sparsely bristled, and colored dull yellow or yellowish-brown. The claws are horn, becoming dusky towards the blackish tips.

Barking Owls raise a single brood in a season. The nest site is an open hollow in a tree trunk, loosely lined with sticks and other wood debris. The female incubates the eggs, while the male supplies the food. Young Barking Owls remain dependent on their parents for several months, and will remain in the family group until a few months before the next breeding season.

Cool Facts: The barking owl was first described by ornithologist John Latham in 1802. The Australian name for the owl is “Goora-a-Gang."

A screaming call, similiar to that of the barking owl, is described by Aboriginal folklore as the ‘Bunyip’ ( "devil" or "evil spirit"). The bunyip was said to be a fearsome creature that inhabited swamps, rivers and billabongs fed on the flesh of human women at night. There is debate over whether the barking owl actually started the Bunyip story, but the owl is the most likely explanation since it is nocturnal and found in the regions where the Bunvip was said to dwell. Also, Aborigines say that the Barking Owl has learned to mimic the screams of the Bunyip.

Found in Songbird ReMix Owls of the World Volume 2

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