Australian Owls

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9 Species of Australian Owls

Birds of Australia: Owl . Australia has 9 species of owl.

When I was growing up our family often camped with other families who lived in our street. Frequently we would imitate the birds that we could hear but at the time I didn't know much about them other than common magpies, cockatoos and various parrots. The most common bird to imitate had a call that sounded like "mo-poke". Us kids would walk around the bush calling out "mo-poke" to each other. At the time I had no idea that this was the call of the Southern Boobook owl.

Image Credit: Andy Mc on

Page Index of the Nine Species of Australian Owls

None of the Australian species of owl migrates.

Each remains in its territory year round.

Tyto - The hearing owls

These owls hunt at night and listen for their prey

Australian Barn Owl

Tyto alba

Australian Barn Owl Barn Owls are found all around the world and are one of the most common species of owl. Also called the Screech Owl, due to it’s high pitched call, Barn Owls are generally a creamy colour and have a lovely heart shaped face.

Barn Owls search for small rodents and are well known as silent hunters. This owl has incredible hearing and will fly over an area listening for the smallest movement.

In Australia, Barn Owls are widespread.

Learn more about the Australian Barn Owl

Image Credit: by Hasitha Tudugalle on . CC BY 2.0

Australian Barn Owl

This is what my own backyard often sounds like, with the noisy Minor birds harassing the Barn Owl.
Australian Barn Owl
by vikingtimbo | video info
6 ratings | 1,793 views
curated content from YouTube

Masked Owl

Tyto novaehollandiae

Masked Owl of Australia Masked Owls are similar in appearance to the Barn Owl however they are a much larger, have a darker outline around their face and are generally a darker colour. The Tasmanian sub-species is even darker than the mainland species.

Masked Owls are found through Australia and roost in hollow trees.

Image Credit: Benjamint444

Sooty Owl

Tyto tenebricosa

Sooty Owl Australia The Sooty Owl can be distinguished by its high pitched shriek. It hunts large prey at night and its diet includes ringtail possums and sugar gliders. You won’t see the Sooty owl out during the day, it loves to hide in hollow trees and dense foliage.

The Sooty Owl is found mostly along the south-eastern coast of Australia.

Image Credit: Quollism

Lesser Sooty Owl

Tyto multipunctata

Lesser Sooty Owl The Lesser Sooty Owl is found in a small isolated region of north-eastern Australia.

Feeding on possums and sugar gliders, this owl roosts during the day in dense foliage and sometimes caves.

Image Credit: Richard Fisher on CC BY 2.0

Eastern Grass Owl

Tyto longimembris

Grass Owl Australia The Grass Owl is found in north and north-eastern parts of Australia among tall grasslands and swampy reagions. The Grass Owl makes its nest in the long grasses.

This owl locates its food by sound, not by sight, and feeds on mice and rats.

To identify the Grass Owl look for its white or buff heart shape face with brown bordering and brown eyes. Its body is various shades of brown. The Grass Owl has longer legs than other Australian birds which is well adapted to walking in the long grass where it nests.

Its call is a hissing screech similar to the masked and barn owls call.

Learn more about the Eastern Grass Owl.

Image Credit:

Eastern Grass Owl

Eastern Grass Owl
by Jan Dolphijn | video info
2 ratings | 590 views
curated content from YouTube

Ninox - The Seeing Owls

These owls use their excellent vision to hunt at dawn and dusk

Rufous Owl

Ninox rufa

Rufous Owl Rufous Owls are found only in the tropical northern regions of Australia. It’s a reddish brown colour and feeds on arboreal marsupials and birds. Rufous Owls have been known to prey on flying foxes and will roost in areas where the flying-fox lives.

Rufous Owls nest in hollow trees or on a branch.

Image Credit: Lip Kee on CC BY-SA 2.0

Powerful Owl

Ninox strenua

Powerful Owl in Australia The Powerful Owl is the largest species of owl in Australia. It can be found on the eastern coast of Australia and feeds on possums, sugar-gliders. and birds. Powerful Owls can sometimes be found in city parks where possums are still abundant.

Powerful Owls have large yellow eyes and dark grey-brown plumage. They nest in tree hollows or dense foliage and make a “woo-hoo” call.

Image Credit: Moonlight0551 on CC BY 2.0

Barking Owl

Ninox connivens

Barking Owl in Australia The Barking owl gets its name from its call which sounds like a dog barking. This large owl will hunt from mice, possum and sometimes other birds.

Barking owl habitat is generally in woodlands and open forest.

Barking owls are similar in appearance to the Southern boobook, however the Barking owl does not have a masked face and it is much larger. They are commonly found in tree hollows.

Learn more about the Barking owl
The Barking owl at

Image Credit: Lin Padgham on CC BY 2.0

Watch and listen to the Barking Owl

It really does sound like a dog!

barking owls
by paulawhitworth | video info
223 ratings | 92,354 views
curated content from YouTube

Southern Boobook Owl

Ninox boobook

Boobook Owl Boobooks are the smallest of all the Australian owls.

The Southern Boobook gets its name from the call it makes. Often the Boobook is referred to as the “mopoke”. To identify the Southern Bookbook, look for its pale brown heart-shaped face with the dark brown streaky body.

The Boobook’s diet is made up of insects and small birds which it is able to capture in mid-air. Small mammals and reptiles are a major part of the Boobooks diet.

It lives in trees during the daylight and hunts at dawn and dusk.

Bookbooks are found throughout Australia in a variety of habitats. It’s likely you’ve heard the Boobook call of “mo-poke” at dusk if you’ve been hiking or camping at that time in Australia.

Hear the sound the Southern Boobook makes in this video Bookbook video and sound

Learn more about the Southern Boobook

Image Credit: Andy Mac on CC BY-SA 2.0

The Tawny Frogmouth is not an owl

Often mistaken for an owl, the Tawny Frogmouth is not part of the owl family.

Australian Owl Myth

According to, Australian Aborigines once believed that Owls represent the souls of women. This makes the Australian owl a sacred bird. The owl is your sister, and your sister is an owl.

Dumbi the Owl - An Aboriginal Story

There is a traditional story told by the Australian Aboriginals about Dumbi the owl who was horribly tortured by two boys. Dumbi is the son of Wanalirri, one of the Wandajirri who causes a great flood in which all but two people drown. It’s a pretty gruesome story, but fortunately the moral is to not harm owls.
Dunbi the Owl by Pamela Lofts and Daisy Utemorrah
by Better Beginnings | video info
3 ratings | 6,246 views
curated content from YouTube

Owl Colouring, Worksheets and Printables

Video - How to draw a Barn Owl
How to draw a Barn Owl video.
The Barn Owl Trust - Barn Owl colouring pages
Beautiful detailed colouring pages.
Bird Coloring Picture of an Owl 011
Very simple owl colouring page
Owl Coloring Pages | Animal Jr.
These owl coloring pages for kids are great for both fall and Halloween coloring activities.
Cute owls colouring pages %u2022

Owl Crafts

These crafts are not specifically Australian Owl crafts, however, you may be able to adapt some to mimic different species of owl.
The Barn Owl Trust - How to make a Barn Owl finger puppet
The Barn Owl Trust is a national registered charity based in Devon, UK dedicated to conserving barn owls and their environment.
Teaching Resources - Owls
Make an owl kite and mask

Victorian Owls

Calling all owls
by DSEVictoria | video info
1 rating | 816 views
curated content from YouTube

Owl Resources - Physiology
Information on Owl Physiology. Learn how owls hear, see, what their skeletal structure is like and much more.
Teaching Resources - Owls
Workheets about Australian owls from the Brid Observers club of Australia
Powerful owls Nature Features (ABC Science)
Article about the Australian Powerful Owl
Owls of Australia - The Owl Pages
Photos and facts about Australian owls

Thanks for visiting!

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  • Snakesmum Jan 13, 2013 @ 7:10 pm
    Interesting lens with great photos. I really like owls.
  • VeronicaHaynes Nov 13, 2012 @ 7:48 am
    Really amazing pictures. I enjoyed teaching about the different owls to my kindie kids last year. The Barn Owl was always a favorite. This is a great resource. Thank you!
  • rooshoo Nov 08, 2012 @ 7:22 am
    The sooty owl is really cute. I didn't even know there were owls in Australia. Maybe this is a dumb question, but do you all have eagles and hawks too?
  • seegreen Nov 08, 2012 @ 3:04 pm
    Hi, yes we do. The Wedge-tailed Eagle is Australia's largest bird of prey. Thanks for stopping by.
  • Sep 05, 2012 @ 5:52 am
    Wonderful lens on owls. I love all sorts of birds and reading about them and seeing the great photos too. thanks for sharing
  • BowWowBear Aug 18, 2012 @ 12:04 am
    I have dabbled in ornithology in the states. What a neat lens on owls in another part of the world. Thanks for sharing. Those are some great photos of the birds you used!
  • WeddingDJSydney Aug 17, 2012 @ 3:58 am
    Im in Asutralia and barely see any owls!!
  • PhotographicStudio Aug 15, 2012 @ 3:03 am
    Very cool lens! love the images and congratulations for your purple star!
  • vazzie Aug 14, 2012 @ 11:23 am
    Congratulations with the purple star. It's well-deserved. Blessed by a quid angel.
  • pheonix76 Aug 13, 2012 @ 11:56 pm
    Owls are remarkable organisms. Thanks for sharing these species with us -- I learned quite a bit about the owls of Australia. :)
  • MaggiePowell Aug 13, 2012 @ 11:28 pm
    beautiful pix... love the aboriginal tale
  • Steve_Kaye Aug 13, 2012 @ 10:58 pm
    Thank you for publishing this lens about owls. I enjoy seeing photos of birds and this lens was a delight. Wish you the best.
  • partybuzz Aug 13, 2012 @ 8:41 pm
    Love your photos of owls. Beautiful.
  • elainechen Aug 13, 2012 @ 8:17 pm
    thanks for sharing with lots of wonderful pictures. Will show to my son later. He never watch the real one. Instead, he only saw the cartoon owl from Mickey Mouse movie.
  • Comfortdoc Aug 13, 2012 @ 7:01 pm
    Beautiful photos. Congrats on being a Purple Powerhouse.

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