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Southern Boobook Owl

Ninox boobook


27 - 36cm

56 - 82cm

146 - 360g

10 - 20 yrs





The southern boobook is a species of owl native to Australia and its surrounding islands. Its name is derived from its “boo-book” call. This sound is sometimes written as “mopoke”, which is the namesake of the incredibly similar morepork owl of New Zealand. It is sometimes known locally as the spotted owl, brown owl or cuckoo owl.

Least Concern




Its head and upperparts are dark brown with white flecks, particularly on the wings. Its facial disk is pale, with white “eyebrows” and dark brown cheeks. The feathers of the underparts are mostly brown with white spots and dark blue-grey bases. The female tends to be more prominently streaked than the male. Its eyes are a grey-green (or hazel) colour.

What Does it Look Like?


What Does it Sound Like?


Its characteristic boo-book hoot can be heard up to 1 kilometre away. The male's hooting is higher pitched than the female, and is heard more frequently. This is because it is used to advertise his territory to females. Southern boobooks also make a repetitive croaking or grunting call while courting or mating, and can switch from croaks to hoots seamlessly.


Mice are its predominant prey but, compared with other Australian owls, insects such as nocturnal beetles and moths make up a higher proportion of its diet. It will also take birds the size of a house sparrow and even larger animals like rabbits. It uses telegraph poles as vantage points to pounce on prey before retreating to a tree to eat it.

What Does it Eat?


Where Does it Nest?


It nests in eucalyptus tree cavities up to twenty metres above the ground. The male lines the base of the hollow with leaves. 2-3 white oval eggs are laid and incubated for one month. Chicks leave the nest five to six weeks after hatching and will live in their parents' territory for a further two to four months before dispersing.


The southern boobook is found across most of Australia and many offshore islands such as Groote Eylandt, Melville Island and Mornington Island. It is also present in southern New Guinea, Roti, Timor and surrounding islands in Indonesia. It resides in a wide range of habitats, from eucalyptus forests and open woodland to scrubland and semi-desert areas.

Where Does it Live?


What is its Status?


A widespread and generally common species, the southern boobook is listed as being a species of least concern on account of its huge range and stable population. However, there has been a decline on the Swan Coastal Plain north of Perth, where southern boobook owls are dying after eating rodents killed with anticoagulant rat poison.

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