Southern Boobook

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Image:SouthBoobook.jpg

Common Name: Southern Boobook
Scientific Name: Ninox boobook

Size: 10.5-14 inches (27-36 cm); Wingspan: 27.5-31.5 inches (70-80 cm)

Habitat: Oceania; endemic to mainland Australia, southern New Guinea, Timor and the Sunda Islands.

Eucalypt forests and woodlands appear to be the preferred habitat but mallee, mulga, semi-desert, tree-lined creeks, residual timber on farmland, leafy suburbs, offshore islands are also suitable habitats. They are generally absent from dense rainforest, except for the Red Boobook of north Queensland.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: Unknown amount of adult individuals, but the population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats. Diet: Mostly insects (particularly nocturnal beetles and moths), mice, and birds up to the size of a house sparrow.

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. It uses a fence, branch or telegraph pole as a perch or vantage point to hunt from.

Nesting: Males and females are alike however males tend to be up to 8% heavier than females. It has generally brown head and upperparts, with white markings on the scapulars and spots on the wings. Its head lacks tufts common in other owls, and has a paler facial disk with darker feathers behind the eyes. The eyes have been described as gray-green, green-yellow, or even light hazel. The underparts are paler, ranging from buff to cream, and are streaked with brown. The overall color is variable and does not appear to correspond to subspecies or region.

They nests in tree cavities, anywhere from 1 to 20 m above the ground. The nest is sparsely lined with wood shavings, leaves and small twigs, but may be left bare. Usually 2-3 eggs are laid and are incubated for 35 days. The female alone incubates the eggs, but both sexes, and sometimes a second female helper, feed the young.The young have white down and are fledged in 5 to 6 weeks. They leave the nest well below full size and with abundant down. They are probably dependent on the parents for 2 to 3 months after this.

Cool Facts: This bird is the smallest owl on the Australian mainland and is the continent's most widely distributed and common owl. It was considered to be the same species as the “morepork” of New Zealand until 2013. The common name comes from the two-tone call of the bird, and has also been transcribed as "mopoke"

Eleven subspecies are recognized:

  • N.b. boobook, the nominate subspecies. It is found on the Australian mainland, from Southern Queensland, through New South Wales and Victoria into South Australia.
  • N.b. halmaturina. It is found on Kangaroo Island. It is sometimes included in the nominate subspecies. It has dark brown underparts with reddish-brown rather than white markings.
  • N.b. rotiensis. It is found on Rote Island in the Lesser Sunda Islands.
  • N.b. fusca. It is found on Timor, Roma and Leti Islands in the eastern Lesser Sunda Islands. It has a more gray-brown plumage with no red tinge, unlike other subspecies.
  • N.b. moae. It is found on Moa, Leti and Romang Islands in the Lesser Sunda Islands.
  • N.b. plesseni. It is known only from a single specimen from Alor Island in the eastern Lesser Sunda Islands.
  • N.b.cinnamomina. It is found on Tepa and Babar Islands in the eastern Lesser Sunda Islands.
  • N.b. pusilla. It is from southern lowlands New Guinea.
  • N.b.remigialis. It is found on the Kai Islands in the Lesser Sunda Islands.
  • N.b. ocellata. It is found across northern Australia, Western Australia and western South Australia, as well as Savu near Timor. It is generally lighter-colored than other mainland boobooks, though occasional dark-plumaged individuals are seen.
  • N.b. urida, also known as the Red Boobook. It is from north Queensland, and sometimes considered a separate species.


Found in Songbird ReMix Owls of the World Volume 2

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