Barking Owl

Did you know?

The Barking Owl is named for its harsh 'barking' call but can also make a much louder, wailing cry, which has given rise to another name, the 'screaming-woman bird'.

The Barking Owl has two main calls, both distinctive and unmistakable. The first is a double-noted, dog-like "wook-wook", and the second is a wavering human-like scream.
Facts and Figures
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Breeding season: 
August to October
Clutch Size: 
2 to 3 eggs
28 days
Nestling Period: 
45 days
Basic Information
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What does it look like?

The Barking Owl is a medium-sized hawk-owl. Hawk-owls lack the definite heart-shaped face of the tyto-owls (which include the Barn Owl, Tyto alba). There are two subspecies of Barking Owl. Ninox connivens connivens occurs in eastern, south-eastern and south-western Australia and N. connivens peninusularis is found in northern Western Australia, the far north of Queesland and the Northern Territory.

Adult Barking Owls are grey-brown above, with white spots on the wings, and whitish below, heavily streaked with grey-brown. The head is almost entirely grey-brown, and the eyes are large and yellow. Young Barking Owls have less streaking on the underparts and are mottled white and grey-brown on the rear of the neck. Barking Owls are nocturnal birds (night birds), although they may sometimes be seen hunting during the day.

Similar species: 

The similarly plumaged Southern BoobookN. novaeseelandiae, is more brown or rufous-brown, and has more spots (rather than streaks) on the underparts. The Southern Boobook is also smaller, measuring 28 to 36 cm.

Where does it live?

Barking Owls are widely distributed throughout Australia, but are absent from central areas.


Barking Owls are found in open woodlands and the edges of forests, often adjacent to farmland. They are less likely to use the interior of forested habitat.

They are usually found in habitats that are dominated by eucalytpus species, particularly red gum, and, in the tropics, paperbark species. They prefer woodlands and forests with a high density of large trees and particularly sites with hollows that are used by the owls as well as their prey. Roost sites are often located near waterways or wetlands.

What does it do?

The Barking Owl feeds on a variety of small to medium-sized mammals, birds, reptiles and insects. Diet is largely insects during the non-breeding season, with larger prey more commonly taken when breeding. Prey is located either from the air or from an exposed perch. Most hunting is performed in the first few hours of the night and the last hours before dawn. Occasionally, birds may even be seen hunting in daylight. The Barking Owl prefers to hunt in clearings, including waterways and other open areas.


Barking Owls raise a single brood in a season. The nest site is an open hollow in a tree trunk, loosely lined with sticks and other wood debris. The female incubates the eggs, while the male supplies the food. Young Barking Owls remain dependent on their parents for several months, and will remain in the family group until a few months before the next breeding season.

Living with us

Barking Owls have declined rapidly throughout much of their range. In Victoria it is estimated that there are only 50 pairs left.

Habitat loss and degradation is a major threat to the survival of the Barking Owl. Loss of hollow-bearing trees and firewood harvesting impacts on the species by removing nesting and roost sites as well as habitat for hollow-dependent prey such as gliders, possums and parrots.

Competition from feral honeybees for roost sites has been named a key threatening process for this species in NSW. Competition with foxes and feral cats, as well as predation by foxes is also thought to be a reason for their decline.

Barking Owl mortality has also been recorded due to secondary agricultural poisoning, barbed wire fences and vehicle collisions.

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