Australian Masked Owl (Tyto novaehollandiae)

Australian Masked Owl

[order] STRIGIFORMES | [family] Tytonidae | [latin] Tyto novaehollandiae | [authority] Stephens, 1826 | [UK] Australian Masked Owl | [FR] Effraie masque | [DE] Neuhollandeule | [ES] Lechuza Australiana | [NL] Australische Kerkuil


Monotypic species


The genus Tyto includes all barn-owls (family Tytonidae) except for the bay-owls (subfamily Phodilinae, genus Phodilus) – that is, the true barn-owls, the grass-owls and the masked-owls collectively making up the subfamily Tytoninae. They are darker on the back than the front, usually an orange-brown colour, the front being a paler version of the back or mottled, although there is considerable variation even amongst species. Tyto owls have a divided, heart-shaped facial disc, and lack the ear-like tufts of feathers found in many other owls. Tyto owls tend to be larger than Bay-owls.

Physical charateristics

A large owl, weighing up to 1260g, with a wingspan of up to 129cm. Females are larger (43-57cm), than males (35-42cm) and considerably darker. The upperparts of this species are dark brown to light chestnut with white speckling. The prominent facial disc is buff to chestnut coloured with a darker margin and chestnut shading around the eyes. The legs are fully feathered and the feet powerful with long talons.

Listen to the sound of Australian Masked Owl

[audio: Masked Owl.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 33 cm size max.: 52 cm
incubation min.: 35 days incubation max.: 42 days
fledging min.: 70 days fledging max.: 80 days
broods: 0   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 4  


Australasia : Australia, South New Guinea


The preferred habitat is close to the forest edge where there is a complex mosaic of understorey components. Eucalypt forests and woodland containing old growth trees or isolated old-growth trees containing large hollows are essential for breeding.


Masked owls form monogamous pairs, nesting in tree hollows with decaying debris. The female is fed by the male and incubates 2-4 eggs, which hatch in about 42 days. Young are covered in white down, then a creamy down, and are fledged in 10-12 weeks. Fledged masked owls have only traces of down and remain in the nest vicinity for several weeks.

Feeding habits

The masked owl is a secretive, relatively silent and strictly nocturnal species, which feeds predominately on introduced rodents and rabbits (on agricultural land) and marsupials and native birds in less disturbed habitats.

Video Australian Masked Owl


copyright: Eldert Groenewoud


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
There is some evidence that indicates a decline in masked owl numbers may have occurred since European settlement. The preferred habitat of the masked owl is dry forest and woodland on the coastal and sub-coastal lowlands in the north, north-east, east and south-east. These vegetation communities have been extensively cleared in the past for agriculture, forestry and residential development.
Australian Masked Owl status Least Concern


Sedentary. Only some post-breeding dispersal.

Distribution map

Australian Masked Owl distribution range map

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