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Australian Masked Owl - Tyto novaehollandiae

Calls - Tyto novaehollandiae
Typical Call, female Healesville, Victoria, Australia. October 1988. © Ed McNabb

Introduction: The Australian Masked Owl is a relatively large barn owl with large powerful feet, a rounded head and no ear-tufts. Pale and dark morphs are known to exist.

[For help with terms used in the description, see parts of an owl. For general characteristics common to most owl species, see owl physiology.]

Description: Pale morph: The facial disc is white, with chestnut shading around the eyes, and a distinct rim speckled light and dark brown. The eyes are dark brown to blackish, and the bill is whitish.
Upperparts, including the wing-coverts, are greyish-brown, peppered with white and black spots. The wings and tail are brownish-grey with a few darker bars.
Underparts are white with coarse dark markings, which are often arrow-shaped.
The feet are fully feathered to the base of the toes, varying in colour from whitish to orange-buff. The toes themselves are yellowish-grey to pale pinkish-grey, and slightly bristled. Claws are dark greyish-brown, with darker tips.
Dark morph: As above, but the ground colour of the upperparts and underparts is orange-buff, with the facial disc buff to pale rufous-brown.

Size: Length 33-47cm. Wing length 290-358mm. Tail length 119-150mm. Weight 290-673g. Females are larger than males.

Habits: The Australian Masked Owl is a nocturnal, secretive bird. It roosts by day in dense foliage of tall trees or in hollow tree trunks, or sometimes in caves and holes between rocks.

Voice: A screech similar to that of the Barn Owl, but louder and more rasping. There is also a wild cackling call the rises and falls in volume.

Hunting & Food: The diet comprises mainly of small mammals up to the size of rabbits. Small birds and lizards are also taken. This owl hunts on the wing or from a perch.

Breeding: Nests are normally in hollow trunks of tall eucalyptus trees, but eggs may also be laid on bare rock or sand in a cave. Normally 2-4 dull white eggs (approx. 43 x 49mm) are laid and incubated by the female alone, while the male provides the food. Nestlings fledge at 10-12 weeks.

Habitat: Forest and open woodland with adjacent clearings. May use caves as a daytime roost.

Distribution: Lowlands of southern New Guinea including Daru Islands, and much of Australia, excluding the arid interior.

Distribution of Australian Masked Owl - Tyto novaehollandiae
Distribution of the Australian Masked Owl Tyto novaehollandiae

Status: Uncertain

Original Description: Stephens, James Francis. 1826. General Zoology, or Systematic Natural History by George Kearsley Shaw. 13, pt. 2, p. 61.

Subspecies: T. n. novaehollandiae, T. n. calabyi, T. n. galei, T. n. kimberli, T. n. melvillensis


Boyer and Hume. 1991. "Owls of the World". BookSales Inc
Hollands, David. 1991. "Birds of the Night". Reed Books
König, Claus & Weick, Friedhelm. 2008. "Owls: A Guide to the Owls of the World (Second Edition)". Yale University Press
König, Weick and Becking. 1999. "Owls: A Guide to the Owls of the World". Yale University Press
Mikkola, Heimo. 2012. "Owls of the World: A Photographic Guide". Bloomsbury

Page Information:

Page compiled by . Page last updated 2013-08-22 Owl Species ID: 010.090.000

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