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Masked Owl, Tyto novaehollandiae

Description

Photo copyright Dave Watts
The Masked Owl is the largest of Tasmania's nocturnal birds, reaching 530mm. The upper parts are a blackish-brown with chestnut and orange barring, while the undersurface is rufous to white, speckled with dark brown. The conspicuous facial disc is chestnut to white, with a darker margin and darker around the bill and below the eyes.

Males and females are similar in colouring, though females are markedly larger. Tasmanian birds are considerably larger than their mainland counterparts.

The Tasmanian subspecies of the Masked Owl, T. n. castenops, is listed as endangered in Tasmania, as a result of habitat loss.

Habitat

The Masked Owl is found singularly or in pairs in forests, woodlands, parks and adjacent open country. Masked Owls are territorial, and pairs remain in or near the territory all year round.

Diet

Masked Owls feed mainly on rodents, rabbits and small marsupials such as bandicoots. They will also take possums, reptiles, birds and insects. Hunting takes place in the early hours of night.

Breeding

The nest is a bare chamber located deep in a tree hollow, lined with soil, sand or soft wood mulch. Two to three eggs are laid and are incubated by the female, while the male provides the food. The young birds remain in the vicinity of the nest and are fed by the parent birds for a further month after fledging.

Call

The Masked owl has a loud, harsh screeching call. It is rarely heard. (Audio recordings courtesy of David Stewart/Nature Sound)
Distribution Map courtesy Natural Values Atlas, data from theLIST
© 2010 State of Tasmania

Distribution

The Masked Owl occurs throughout coastal mainland Australia, although it is not common. It is also found in New Guinea and Indonesia.

In Tasmania, the species was once widespread and common, however numbers have decreased due to habitat loss. They are difficult to see in the wild.