Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Southern Boobook (Ninox boobook)


French: Ninoxe d’Australie German: Boobookkauz Spanish: Nínox australiano
Other common names: Red Boobook (lurida)

Strix Boobook


, 1801,

Sydney area, New South Wales, Australia


May form a group with N. rudolfi, N. leucopsis and N. novaeseelandiae, and all four have frequently been considered conspecific; separated at species level from N. novaeseelandiae by morphological and molecular differences. Various other treatments proposed, notably a group that includes these same four species together with N. squamipila (and recently separated N. hypogramma, N. hantu and N. forbesi and presumably N. natalis), N. meeki, N. theomacha, N. variegata and perhaps other boobooks in Australasian Region; more research needed. Form lurida has been treated as a separate species#R#R, on basis of “morphology and vocalisations” plus “very different habitat”, but vocal evidence weak and saturated plumage clearly linked to more humid habitat. No consensus on number of races, much in need of revision, especially non-Australian forms. Kangaroo I (South Australia) population has been described as a race (halmaturina), but seems not constantly separable from nearby mainland population of nominate; also, marmorata of SW & SC Australia regarded as synonymous with ocellata. Form rotiensis has different voice and is very likely to require upgrading to species status, but this is pending a “full and proper analysis” of the evidence#R; other forms apparently differing vocally are fusca#R and plesseni#R, and these may repay further investigation. Ten subspecies tentatively recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • N. b. rotiensis Johnstone & Darnell, 1997 – Roti (off W Timor).
  • N. b. fusca (Vieillot, 1817) – Timor, in C Lesser Sundas.
  • N. b. plesseni Stresemann, 1929 – Alor and Pantar, in C Lesser Sundas.
  • N. b. moae Mayr, 1943 – Romang, Leti and Moa, in EC Lesser Sundas.
  • N. b. cinnamomina E. J. O. Hartert, 1906 – Babar, in E Lesser Sundas.
  • N. b. remigialis Stresemann, 1930 – Kai Is.
  • N. b. pusilla Mayr & Rand, 1935 – S New Guinea.
  • N. b. ocellata (Bonaparte, 1850) – Australia W of Great Dividing Range (E to Cape York and C Queensland, Murray–Darling Basin, and gulfs of SE South Australia); rarely, islands in Torres Strait; also Sawu (W of Timor).
  • N. b. lurida De Vis, 1887 – NE Queensland between Cooktown and Paluma.
  • N. b. boobook (Latham, 1801) – coastal and subcoastal E Australia (S from S Queensland) and W to gulfs of SE South Australia.
  • Descriptive notes

    27–36 cm; male 146–360 g, female 170–298 g; wingspan 56–82 cm. Much variation in size, with smaller birds in warmer areas. Small, stocky and... read more


    Commonest call a repeated double hoot, “boo-book” or “bru-bruk". Race... read more


    Uses wide variety of habitats, from forests, woodlands, farmlands, orchards and suburban... read more

    Food and feeding

    Takes more invertebrates than any other Australian owl; also eats small to medium-sized vertebrates including bats, rodents, birds, lizards... read more


    Lays late Aug–Nov, slightly later in S than in N. Monogamous; territorial, intensified calling prior to breeding. Nest typically in... read more


    Not well known; largely resident, some winter dispersal. Southernmost populations possibly... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Widely distributed and common through forest of New Guinea; moderately common on Timor; in Australia, widespread and... read more

    Recommended citation

    Olsen, P.D. & Marks, J.S. (2019). Southern Boobook (Ninox boobook). 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 10 December 2019).