The Australian Masked Owl (Tyto novaehollandiae) is a barn owl of Southern New Guinea and the non-desert areas of Australia.
The facial disk is white and has short brown feathers around dark brown or black eyes forming a heart shaped outline. They are blackish brown with grey and white spots on the upper body. The underparts are white with brown spots. The female is a darker color than the male. The average weight is 660gm with females larger than the male. The length is 35-47cm. They are one of Australia's largest owls. (The Powerful Owl Ninox strenua is the largest).
Alternate common names have been used for this species in the past. For example:
- Mouse-Owl - This was a name given to the species by Latham in 1821. . It is though to be probably due to its habit of catching mice at homesteads.
The Australian Masked Owl inhabits shrubs, bush lands waterways with timber. In Australia they are seldom found more than 300 km inland. They roost and nest in large tree hollows near foraging areas. They are nocturnal and their prey includes rodents, reptiles, birds, insects and bandicoots. The population of the Australian Masked Owl on the mainland is declining and several states have this owl on the Species Conservation Status list. They are territorial and remain in the same area all their lives.
They breed when conditions are favorable which can be any time of the year. The nest is usually built in hollow trees with soil, mulch or sand. Namely the extinct population of the treeless Nullarbor Plain used underground caves or rock crevices for nesting. The female lays two or three eggs and incubates them while the male hunts for food. The young are white or off white when they first develop feathers. They can leave the nest at two to three months of age but return to be fed by the parents for another month before going on their own.
Coming in to land
The population of the Australian Masked owl on the mainland is declining and several states have placed this owl on the Species Conservation Status list.