Barking Owl

Close up portrait of Barking Owl

Scientific Name: Ninox connivens

Size: 35 to 45 cm

What does it look like?

The Barking Owl is a medium-sized hawk-owl. Hawk-owls do not have a definite heart-shaped face, unlike the tyto-owls. The plumage is grey-brown above, with white spots on the wings, and whitish below, heavily streaked with grey-brown. The head is almost entirely grey-brown, and the eyes are large and yellow. Both sexes share this plumage description.

Young Barking Owls have less streaking on the underparts and are mottled white and grey-brown on the rear of the neck.

The similarly plumaged Southern Boobook, N. novaeseelandiae, has more rufous plumage, and is more spotted (rather than streaked) on the underparts. The Southern Boobook is also smaller, measuring 28 to 36 cm.

Where is it found?

They are widely distributed throughout Australia, but are absent from central areas. Although moderately common, Barking Owls are more often heard than seen (typical of most nocturnal birds).

What are its habitats & habits?

Barking Owls are most common in savannah woodland, although they also inhabit well-forested hill and riverine woodlands.

The Barking Owl feeds on a variety of small to medium-sized mammals, birds, reptiles and insects. Prey is located either from the air or from an exposed perch. Most hunting is performed in the first few hours of the night and the last hours before dawn. Occasionally, birds may even be seen hunting in daylight. The Barking Owl prefers to hunt in clearings, including waterways and other open areas.

 Barking Owls breed around August to October each year. A single brood of 2 to 3 young is raised in a season. The nest site is an open hollow in a tree trunk, loosely lined with sticks and other wood debris. The female incubates the eggs, while the male supplies the food. The young hatch after about 1 month and leave the nest after a further 40 to 50 days. Young Barking Owls remain dependent on their parents for several months, and will remain in the family group until a few months before the next breeding season.

Interesting fact

The Barking Owl has two main calls, both distinctive and unmistakable. The first is a double-noted, dog-like “wook-wook”, and the second is a wavering human-like scream (not unlike a woman screaming “help”). This second call has given the bird its alternative name of Screaming Woman.

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Front cover of Australia's Birdwatching Megaspots book showing a picture of an Eastern Spinebill

This species features in my book Australia’s Birdwatching Megaspots

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