Australian masked owl
|Australian Masked Owl|
| Tasmanian Masked Owl|
Tyto novaehollandiae castanops
|Conservation status||Least concern|
Tasmanian subspecies endangered
The Australian masked owl (Tyto novaehollandiae) is a species of owl found throughout Australia and surrounding islands. The largest of the barn owls, it was given the name mouse owl by early settlers who observed the birds catching large numbers of mice near their homesteads.
The Australian masked owl is approximately nineteen inches long, and has a wingspan of just over two feet. Females are larger than males. They are dark brown above, with some tan mottling; their underparts are a light tan to white. Dark grey to blackish arrow-shaped spots mark the plumage throughout. The facial disk is a whitish color, with a tan or brown wash surrounding the dark eyes. Legs and feet are fully feathered to the toes, which are greyish-yellow to pink. The underparts and facial disk of the Tasmanian subspecies is rufus-brown.
The owls prefer open forested areas with access to clear fields and grasslands; farmsteads and man-man clearings are also preferred. By day they seek out dense foliage, caves, cavities, or other areas in which to conceal themselves.
Australian masked owls hunt small mammals up to the size of rabbit; small birds, lizards, and insects are also taken. The prey items are swallowed whole, with the hair, feathers, and bones regurgitated later as a pellet, which are found below their nesting sites.
Hollow tree trunks or caves are nesting sites, where up four white eggs are laid. Males do not incubate the eggs; instead they provide the food while the female tends to the eggs. Chicks are fledged at 10-12 weeks of age.
Australian masked owls are found throughout much of Australia (excluding the desert interior), the lowlands of southern New Guinea and the Daru Islands. The Tasmanian subspecies was recently introduced with mixed success to Lord Howe Island.
- T. n. calabyi
- Southern New Guinea
- T. n. castanops
- Tasmania; introduced to Lord Howe Island. Largest subspecies.
- T. n. galei
- Cape York Peninsula
- T. n. kimberli
- Northern Australian mainland
- T. n. melvillensis
- Tiwi Islands
- T. n. novaehollandiae
- Southern Australian mainland
- T. n. troughtoni
- Nullarbor Plain, southern Australia