Southern Boobook

The Southern Boobook (Ninox novaeseelandiae), also called the Tasmanian spotted owl, is a small brown owl found throughout New Zealand, Tasmania, across most of mainland Australia and in Timor, southern New Guinea and nearby islands. This bird is the smallest owl in Australia and is the continent’s most widely distributed and common owl.

The bird has almost 20 alternative common names, most of which are onomatopoeic, meaning they emulate the bird’s distinctive two-pitched call: including mopoke, morepork, ruru and boobook itself.

Two subspecies, the Lord Howe Boobook and the Norfolk Island Boobook, both sadly became extinct during the 20th century.


Although their main hunting technique is perch-and-pounce, they are agile birds with a swift, goshawk-like wing action and the ability to manoeuvre rapidly when pursuing prey or hawking for insects. Almost any suitably sized prey is taken, particularly small birds, mammals and large insects such as moths, grasshoppers and, in New Zealand, wetas.

During the day, they sleep in roosts. By night they hunt a variety of animals – mainly large invertebrates including scarab and huhu beetles, moths and caterpillars, and spiders. They also take small birds, rats and mice. They can find suitable food in pine forests as well as native forest.

A Southern Boobook owl perched on a branch