The Owl Pages

Australian Masked Owl ~ Tyto novaehollandiae


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.

Photo Gallery (6 pictures)

  • Australian Masked Owl
  • Australian Masked Owl
  • Australian Masked Owl
  • Australian Masked Owl
  • Australian Masked Owl
  • Australian Masked Owl

Sound Gallery

Typical call - Healesville, Victoria, Australia. October 1988. © Ed McNabb.


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 that 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.

Range of Australian Masked Owl (Tyto novaehollandiae)
Range 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.

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.

See also: Other owls from Asia, Oceania, Genus: Tyto.

Page by Deane Lewis. Last updated 2016-03-17.