After more than twenty-years of searching Daintree Rainforest for all manner of cryptic life forms, we have at last photographic evidence of this rare Red Boobook (Ninox boobook lurida). The Southern Boobook (Ninox boobook) is also known as Mopoke, Morepork, Spotted Owl or Marbled Owl.
This Red Boobook is a smaller bird and a subspecies that is darker in colour and seems to be restricted to mountain rainforests in Northern Queensland. The female Boobook, approximately 27-cms, is larger than the male 23-cms. This is unusual in owl families, where the male is typically larger than the female. The Southern Boobook has been described as spectacled because of the large white discs that surround the eyes. The Red Bookook distinguishes itself from other Southern Boobooks, by rarely vocalising. Nocturnal sounds of Ninox species, the distinctive 2-note “Mopoke” or “Boo-book” can be heard, but not necessarily from the Red Boobook. Mating pairs vocalise with a soft “por, por, por” sounds.
Red Boobook hunts at night and glides silently through through the trees in search of prey. These owls frequently nest in tree hollows, but another unique nesting place is hidden in hollows along the banks behind the roots of trees, exposed by fast-flowing water.
Limited research indicates that these owls prefer smaller prey such as moths, spiders and insects, rather than the larger native rodents, but the sampling appears to be too small to make any definite conclusions.
While the Southern Boobook (Ninox boobook) is Australia’s smallest and most common owl, the Red Boobook sub-species lurida is the smallest of the group and appears to be restricted to north Queensland rain forests. Outside of the mountainous rainforests the Southern Boobook prevails.
Breeding occurs in August and September around Australia. A mating pair may hang around together in the nests weeks before the actual coupling begins and the female usually lays 2 or 3 eggs. These will incubate over 35-days.
It’s not surprising that it has taken more than twenty-years for the Red Boobook to show itself and to be photographed. Indeed, we would suggest that there remains a great deal more to find in this secretive and extraordinarily diverse part of Australia.