Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Morepork (Ninox novaeseelandiae)


French: Ninoxe boubouk German: Kuckuckskauz Spanish: Nínox maorí

Strix novæ Seelandiæ

J. F. Gmelin

, 1788,

Queen Charlotte Sound, South Island, New Zealand


May form a group with N. rudolfi, N. boobook (which see) and N. leucopsis; often considered to include N. boobook, but separated specifically by morphological and molecular differences. Formerly treated as conspecific with N. leucopsis, which differs from present species in its larger size (effect size for male wing, based on published data#R, 3.75; score 2), albeit with same-length tail (allow 1), paler brown coloration which shades paler on lower underparts so that undertail-coverts whitish where New Zealand birds rusty-buff (2), more spotting on head and neck (1), whiter spotting below (1), and feet pinkish-grey#R vs buffy-yellow to orange-buff (ns[1]). Birds of North I formerly separated as race venatica, but differences from nominate minimal and possibly not constant. Two extant subspecies recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • N. n. undulata (Latham, 1801) – Norfolk I.
  • N. n. albaria E. P. Ramsay, 1888 – Lord Howe I (extinct since c. 1940)#R.
  • N. n. novaeseelandiae (J. F. Gmelin, 1788) – New Zealand, including most offshore islands.
  • Descriptive notes

    26–29 cm; male 140–156 g, female 170–216 g. Very small, stocky, with relatively round wings and long tail. Plumage highly variable, with several colour... read more


    Commonest call a repeated double hoot, “boo-book”.


    Forest, farmland and pine plantations at lower elevations, extending up to tree-line. Roosts under... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly insects; also spiders and small to medium-sized vertebrates such as birds, rodents, bats and lizards. Typically begins hunting in... read more


    Eggs laid late Sept–Nov, young fledge early Dec–late Jan. Monogamous; territorial, intensified calling prior to breeding. Nest... read more


    Mainly resident; movements poorly understood. Young may disperse in winter, reaching islands where... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Nominate race is CITES II (undulata CITES I). Widely distributed and common in forests of New Zealand’s main and large... read more

    Recommended citation

    Olsen, P.D. & Marks, J.S. (2019). Morepork (Ninox novaeseelandiae). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 7 December 2019).