Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Barking owl

Ninox connivens

(Photo from Silent Range Estate)

Common name:
barking owl (en); coruja-que-ladra (pt); ninoxe aboyeuse (fr); nínox ladrador (es); kläfferkauz (de)

Order Strigiformes
Family Strigidae

This species is found in in eastern and northern Australia, in Papua New-Guinea, Indonesia and the Moluccas.

Barking owls are 35-45 cm long and have a wingspan of 85-100 cm. They weigh 425-510 g.

These birds are mostly found in open country with a choice of large trees for roosting and nesting. They favour creeks and rivers, particularly with river red gums, isolated stands of trees and open woodland. They can also be found in paperbark swamps and even in farms and town buildings.

This agile and aggressive hunter, takes a wide range of prey. They take small to medium-sized mammals, including rabbits, gliders, small possums, bats and rodents; birds like house sparrow, magpie lark, small pigeons, blue-faced honeyeater, laughing and blue-winged kookaburra, red-rumped parrot, tawny frogmouth, Australian magpie, white-winged chough, white cockatoo and several species of duck; reptiles and insects.

The barking owl breeds in July-October. The nest site is an open hollow in a tree trunk, up to 30 m above the ground, loosely lined with sticks and other wood debris. The same site is often used for many years. The female lays 2-3 white eggs, which she incubates alone for 28-36 days while being provided food by the male. The chicks fledge 35-45 days after hatching, but remain dependent on their parents for several months, and will remain in the family group until a few months before the next breeding season. Each pair produces a single clutch per year.

IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and his described as widespread and generally common over this range. However, barking owls have declined rapidly throughout much of their range, mostly due to ongoing habitat destruction and degradation through over-grazing. Loss of hollow-bearing trees and firewood harvesting impacts on the species by removing nesting and roost sites, while competition from feral honeybees for roost sites and competition with foxes and feral cats, as well as predation by foxes is also thought to be a reason for their decline. Barking owl mortality has also been recorded due to secondary agricultural poisoning, barbed wire fences and vehicle collisions. Despite these issues, this species is not considered threatened at present.

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