Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Rufous Owl (Ninox rufa)


French: Ninoxe rousse German: Rostkauz Spanish: Nínox rojizo

Athene rufa


, 1846,

Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia


Has been considered to be closest to N. strenua. Races require revision: meesi possibly only a pale morph of queenslandica; Aru population sometimes separated as aruensis, but apparently indistinguishable from humeralis, and population of CE Queensland (Cairns S to Claude R) described as marginata, but now normally included in queenslandica; species has even been suggested as being monotypic. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • N. r. humeralis (Bonaparte, 1850) – New Guinea, including Waigeo (W Papuan Is) and Aru Is.
  • N. r. rufa (Gould, 1846) – NE Western Australia (Kimberleys) and N Northern Territory (Arnhem Land).
  • N. r. meesi Mason & Schodde, 1980 – N Queensland in coastal and subcoastal Cape York S to about Mitchell R and Endeavour R.
  • N. r. queenslandica Mathews, 1911 – coastal and subcoastal Queensland from Endeavour R S to lower Burdekin R and perhaps Rockhampton.
  • Descriptive notes

    40–52 cm; male 1150–1300 g, female 700–1050 g; wingspan c. 115 cm. A large hawk-owl with smallish head and long tail. Indistinct blackish facial disc;... read more


    Low, slowly repeated “woo-hoo” similar to that of allopatric N. ... read more


    Mainly native rainforest, well-wooded savanna, monsoon woodland, gallery forest and forest edge,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Main prey medium-sized arboreal and terrestrial mammals such as marsupials (Antechinus, Isoodon, Trichosurus,... read more


    Not well known. Lays c. Jun–Oct, tending to be earlier in warmer areas. Monogamous and territorial. Nest in debris of large hollow in... read more


    Resident; perhaps some local movement in wet season.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. In Australia, population estimates range from 3000 pairs for rufa, meesi and queenslandica... read more

    Recommended citation

    Olsen, P.D. & Marks, J.S. (2019). Rufous Owl (Ninox rufa). 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 14 December 2019).