Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Northern Boobook (Ninox japonica)


French: Ninoxe boréale German: Japankauz Spanish: Nínox japonés

Strix japonica

Temminck and Schlegel

, 1845,



Until recently was considered conspecific with N. scutulata (then incorporating also N. randi and N. obscura), but differs distinctly in vocal characters and in part also mensurally#R, and species status accepted here even though these may not be enough (or not sufficiently enumerated) to score 7 under the scoring system used herein. Population previously named ussuriensis now treated as florensis; sometimes synonymized with nominate. Birds from Ryukyu Is, Taiwan and Lanyu I previously separated as race totogo, but recent genetic analysis#R (including known breeders, known migrants, and topotypes of sedentary individuals on Lanyu) revealed co-existence of two clades in E Asia, one containing resident breeders in Taiwan, the other containing migrants present only in non-breeding season (at which time the two were found together); topotypes of sedentary totogo from Lanyu clustered with nominate japonica, suggesting that treatment of former as a race unwarranted; sedentary Taiwanese population may represent a unique cryptic lineage. Proposed form macroptera (described from Mindoro) included within nominate#R. Two subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • N. j. florensis (Wallace, 1864) – SE Siberia, NE China (SE Heilongjiang to Hebei) and N Korea; in winter S to Greater and Lesser Sundas#R.
  • N. j. japonica (Temminck & Schlegel, 1845) – E China, C & S Korea, Japan, Ryukyu Is, Taiwan and Lanyu I (off SE Taiwan); resident in S of range (Taiwan, Lanyu I), rest of population winters mostly SE Asia S to Greater and Lesser Sundas#R.
  • Descriptive notes

    29–33 cm; male 167·5 g, female 168·2 g (mean of ten birds of each sex); wingspan 66–70 cm. Medium-sized boobook, hawk-like in appearance. Plain... read more


    Breeding adults give a series of deep, double hoots: “ho-ho, ho-ho, ho-ho, ho-ho”.


    Favours lowland deciduous forests with tall trees, wooded parks and gardens, but also uses conifers... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet dominated by invertebrates, especially beetles and moths. In one study from Japan, 6032 prey items consisted of 5968 insects (99% of... read more


    On Taiwan, breeding males start vocalizing in Jan and Feb, pairs form in Feb and Mar, eggs are laid from mid-Mar through Apr and young... read more


    Migratory except on Okinawa Is, Miyako Is, Yaeyama Is, Taiwan (including Lanyu), and probably also... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. No data on global population size or population trends, but no evidence that any populations are undergoing serious... read more

    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Marks, J.S. (2019). Northern Boobook (Ninox japonica). 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 11 December 2019).