Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Extinct
This taxon may be listed under the EPBC Act at the species level, see Ninox novaeseelandiae [695].
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
List of Migratory Species (13/07/2000) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000b) [Legislative Instrument].
List of Migratory Species - Amendment to the list of migratory species under section 209 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (26/11/2013) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2013af) [Legislative Instrument].
State Listing Status
NSW: Listed as Extinct (Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (New South Wales): December 2013 list)
Non-statutory Listing Status
NGO: Listed as Extinct (The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010)
Scientific name Ninox novaeseelandiae albaria [26043]
Family Strigidae:Strigiformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author  
Infraspecies author (Ramsey, 1888)
Distribution map Species Distribution Map not available for this taxon.
Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Ninox novaeseelandiae albaria

Common name: Southern Boobook (Lord Howe Island)

The Southern Boobook (Lord Howe Island) is considered a valid subspecies (Higgins 1999; Norman et al. 1998b; Schodde & Mason 1980), though it has previously been considered a separate and distinct species by some taxonomists (Schodde et al. 1983).

The Southern Boobook (Lord Howe Island) was a small owl with spotted plumage. It was approximately 30-35 cm in length. Its head was pale reddish brown, with pale whitish or buff supercilia (outer corners of the eyebrows) which extended onto the facial disc to form an indistinct X-shaped marking; the upperparts were pale reddish brown, concolorous with the head, with white spots; and the underparts and upperwings were pale rufous brown with small white spots. Its bill was dark slate grey, its eyes were golden yellow and its legs and feet were greenish yellow (Higgins 1999).

There is nothing recorded about its social structure and dispersion, but other subspecies are usually recorded singly or in pairs, and occasionally in small family groups in summer (Higgins 1999).

The extinct Southern Boobook (Lord Howe Island) occurred only on Lord Howe Island (Hutton 1991; McAllan et al. 2004).

There are no current captive populations of this subspecies and none has been reintroduced into the wild.

At the species level, the Southern Boobook occurs throughout Australia and New Zealand, as well as in the Lesser Sundas, southern New Guinea, and on Norfolk Island (Coates 1985; Higgins 1999; White & Bruce 1986).

The global population of the Southern Boobook is considered to be secure (del Hoyo et al. 1999). The Southern Boobook is widespread throughout Australia, where five of the subspecies are considered to be of least concern with stable populations, while the subspecies on Norfolk Island is extinct (Garnett & Crowley 2000). The decline and subsequent extinction of the Lord Howe Island subspecies was caused by competition with and predation by introduced owls (Garnett & Crowley 2000; McAllan et al. 2004), but this is not threatening process elsewhere in the species' overall range. No subspecies outside Australia are listed as threatened (Birdlife International 2000a).

The Southern Boobook (Lord Howe Island) was geographically separated from all other subspecies until the eastern Australian subspecies was introduced to Lord Howe Island in the 1920s. Though Southern Boobooks are widespread throughout Australia, they are geographically separated from other populations overseas, and there is generally no interchange between Southern Boobooks of Australia and those of other regions. However, one Boobook recorded on Kai Island in Indonesia was thought to have been of the subspecies N. n. ocellata from northern Australia (White & Bruce 1986).

There have not been any comprehensive surveys for this species. There have, however, been a number of ornithological surveys on Lord Howe Island since the 1950s, when the Lord Howe subspecies of the Southern Boobook is thought to have become extinct (Disney & Smithers 1972; Recher 1974; Recher & Clark 1974), and there has been no sign of the subspecies.

The Southern Boobook (Lord Howe Island) is extinct (Garnett & Crowley 2000). Though it was not commonly seen (Garnett & Crowley 2000), it was often heard (Hindwood 1940; Hull 1909). However, no population estimates were ever made.

The Southern Boobook (Lord Howe Island) is thought to have occurred as a single population on Lord Howe Island. The species as a whole occurs in several smaller populations, each considered a separate subspecies (Higgins 1999). There are 14 different subspecies, of which half occur in Australia (Higgins 1999).

The Southen Boobook (Lord Howe Island) is extinct, but the overall global population of the Southern Boobook is probably stable (Garnett & Crowley 2000). The last genetically pure Southern Boobook (Norfolk Island) individual was observed in 1995, and the population on Norfolk Island now consists of hybrids between the Norfolk Island subspecies and the closely related N. n. novaeseelandiae (Norman et al. 1998b; Olsen 1996).

Under normal circumstances, the Lord Howe Island subspecies of the Southern Boobook did not interbreed with other species in the wild, as there were no other owls inhabiting Lord Howe Island. However, it has been speculated that after the introduction of the eastern mainland subspecies of Southern Boobook (N. n. boobook) the two subspecies may have interbred (Hindwood 1940; McAllan et al. 2004) but this is unconfirmed.

Lord Howe Island was gazetted as a World Heritage Area in 1982, long after the became extinct.

The Southern Boobook (Lord Howe Island) inhabited native forests and also occurred around the settlements (Etheridge 1889).

Many species on Lord Howe Island are threatened or extinct (Garnett & Crowley 2000), and it is possible that Southern Boobooks (Lord Howe Island) may have associated with (or preyed upon) one or more of those species, but this is unrecorded.

Nothing is known of the sexual maturity, life expectancy and natural mortality of the Southern Boobook (Lord Howe Island). The species as a whole may form breeding pairs within six months of fledging (Stephenson 1998), although on Norfolk Island, Southern Boobooks do not breed until three to four years old (Olsen 1996). In captivity, Southern Boobooks first form pairs when one year old, but do not breed until two years old (Fleay 1926; Fleay 1968). Causes of natural mortality of the species as a whole include: predation by raptors such as Brown Goshawks Accipiter fasciatus, Grey Goshawks A. novaehollandiae and Masked Owls Tyto novaehollandiae (Czechura et al. 1987; Mooney 1993; Olsen et al. 1990); mobbing by large birds (Whiter 1989); entanglement of juveniles by weeds such as dodder Cassytha or Bidgee Widgee Acaena novaezelandiae (Ashton 1996; Mooney 1992); and eye ailments which result in blindness (Stokes 1982; Wilson 1990).

The breeding behaviour of the Southern Boobook (Lord Howe Island) is undescribed (Hindwood 1940; McAllan et al. 2004), and a suggestion that they laid two to four eggs (Hutton 1991) is speculative. Other subspecies lay between one and five (but usually two or three) white eggs in the hollow of either a living or dead tree (Higgins 1999).

It was suggested that the Southern Boobook (Lord Howe Island) probably fed 'almost exclusively on birds', as other than a species of bat, there were no mammals present on Lord Howe Island, though it probably ate mice after their introduction in about 1868 (Etheridge 1889; Hindwood 1940). They are more likely to have eaten nocturnal insects, such as moths and beetles, as well as small birds (Etheridge 1889; Hutton 1991; McAllan et al. 2004).

The foraging behaviour of the Southern Boobook (Lord Howe Island) is unrecorded. Other subspecies generally forage by perching on an elevated site while scanning an area by sight or sound, constantly moving the head to watch for movement or to look in the direction of sounds, and then capture prey by sally-striking in the air or among foliage, or sally-pouncing onto the ground (Baker-Gabb 1984b; Clancy 1977; Debus 1996, 1997,1997a; Olsen & Bartos 1997b; Stephenson 1998).

As the Southern Boobook (Lord Howe Island) was endemic to the island, it was probably sedentary. Other subspecies are resident in some areas, and in other regions part of the population undertakes seasonal movements, comprising either altitudinal movements (Olsen & Trost 1998) or geographical movements (Storr 1984b, 1988b), so that some local populations are augmented by seasonal visitors. For example, some Tasmanian birds are said to migrate across Bass Strait to spend winter in Victoria and NSW (Conole 1985; Cooney 2004; Mees 1964; Robinson 1984).

Nothing is known of the home ranges or territories of the Southern Boobook (Lord Howe Island). In other subspecies, some Boobooks maintain territories throughout the year (Stephenson 1998). Some territories are estimated to cover 100 hectares (Olsen & Trost 1998), while for other individuals, home ranges may be as small as 3.5 hectares (Imboden 1975).

Historically, the species would have been distinctive as it was the only species of owl which occurred on Lord Howe Island. After the 1920s, when other owls were introduced, it was readily distinguishable from Masked and Barn Owls by its small size and its pale reddish-brown plumage with white spots. It was less easily distinguished from the introduced eastern Australian subspecies of Southern Boobook N. n. boobook by its paler plumage and less distinct facial markings (Higgins 1999), but their calls are said to have been indistinguishable (Hindwood 1940; Hull 1909; McAllan et al. 2004).

The subspecies was readily detectable, as it called often (Hindwood 1940; Hull 1909).

The cause of the extinction of the Southern Boobook (Lord Howe Island) is unknown, but is likely to have stemmed from the deliberate introduction of three species of owls (the eastern Australian subspecies of the Southern Boobook N. n. boobook, Masked Owl Tyto novaehollandiae and Barn Owl Tyto alba) between 1922 and 1930 in an attempt to control Black Rats Rattus rattus which were accidentally introduced to the island in 1918 (Hindwood 1940; McAllan et al. 2004; McKean & Hindwood 1965). It is likely that Barn Owls competed with Boobooks for food, and the eastern Australian subspecies competed with the local subspecies for food and nesting hollows (McAllan et al. 2004). Masked Owls may have preyed on the Boobooks, but it is unlikely that the two species competed for food or breeding sites (Garnett & Crowley 2000). In addition, Black Rats Rattus rattus may have eaten the eggs and owlets of Southern Boobooks (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

The species is thought to have survived until the 1950s (Hutton 1991; McAllan et al. 2004), when a Boobook was heard calling, though it is unclear whether the bird was the local subspecies or an introduced bird, as the calls of both are said to be indistinguishable (Hindwood 1940; Hull 1909; McAllan et al. 2004). There is an unconfirmed report of a call being heard in 1969 (Disney & Smithers 1972).

There have been no major studies conducted on the Lord Howe Island subspecies of the Southern Boobook. Higgins (1999) summarises all that is known about the species as a whole. The Action Plan for Australian Birds (Garnett & Crowley 2000) also provides a summary of ecological and biological data.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Uncategorised:Uncategorised:threats not specified Ninox novaeseelandiae albariain Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006rd) [Internet].

Ashton, C.B. (1996). The birds of the Aldinga-Sellicks Beach Scrub. South Australian Ornithologist. 29:169-179.

Baker-Gabb, D. (1984b). The feeding ecology and behaviour of seven species of raptor overwintering in coastal Victoria. Australian Wildlife Research. 11:517-532.

Birdlife International (2000a). Threatened Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain & Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International & Lynx Edicions.

Clancy, G.P. (1977). Boobook Owls in the Sydney district. Australian Birds. 12:12-14.

Coates, B.J. (1985). The Birds of Papua New Guinea. Volume 1. Alderley, Queensland: Dove Publications.

Conole, L.E. (1985). The distribution and status of owls (Aves Strigidae and Tytonidae) in the Geelong-Otway district. Geelong Naturalist. 22:3-17.

Cooney, S.J.N., ed. (2004). Victorian Bird Report 2002. Birds Australia and Bird Observers Club of Australia, Melbourne.

Czechura, G.V., S.J.S. Debus & N.J. Mooney (1987). The Collared Sparrowhawk Accipiter cirrocephalus [sic]: a review and comparison with the Brown Goshawk Accipiter fasciatus. Australian Bird Watcher. 12:35-62.

Debus, S.J.S. (1996). Mating behaviour of the Southern Boobook Ninox novaeseelandiae. Australian Bird Watcher. 16:300-301.

Debus, S.J.S. (1997). Vocal behaviour of the Southern Boobook Ninox novaeseelandiae and other nocturnal birds. Birds Australia Monograph. 3:71-85.

Debus, S.J.S. (1997a). Southern Boobook hawking for insects. Boobook. 18(1):39.

del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & J. Sargatal (1999). Handbook of the Birds of the World. In: Barn-owls to Hummingbirds. Volume 5. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Disney, H.J. de S. & C.N. Smithers (1972). The distribution of terrestrial and freshwater birds on Lord Howe Island, in comparison with Norfolk Island. Australian Zoologist. 17:1-11.

Etheridge, R. (1889). The general zoology of Lord Howe Island. Australian Museum Memoirs. 2:3-42.

Fleay, D.H. (1926). Habits of the Boobook Owl. Emu. 26:97-104.

Fleay, D.H. (1968). Nightwatchmen of Bush and Plain. Jacaranda Press, Brisbane.

Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley (2000). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Environment Australia and Birds Australia. Available from:

Higgins, P.J. (ed.) (1999). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume Four - Parrots to Dollarbird. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Hindwood, K.A. (1940). The birds of Lord Howe Island. Emu. 40:1-86.

Hull, A.F.B. (1909). The birds of Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales. 34:636-693.

Hutton, I. (1991). Birds of Lord Howe Island: Past and Present. Coffs Harbour, NSW: author published.

Imboden, C. (1975). A brief radio-telemetry study on Moreporks. Notornis. 22:221-230.

Magrath, M.J.L., M.A. Weston, P. Olsen & M. Antos (2004). Draft Survey Standards for Birds: Species Accounts. Melbourne, Victoria: Report for the Department of the Environment and Heritage by Birds Australia.

McAllan, I.A.W., B.R. Curtis, I. Hutton & R.M. Cooper (2004). The birds of the Lord Howe Island Group: a review of records. Australian Field Ornithology. 21:1-82.

McKean, J.L. & K.A. Hindwood (1965). Additional notes on the birds of Lord Howe Island. Emu. 64:79-97.

Mees, G.F. (1964). A revision of the Australian Owls (Striigdae and Tytonidae). Zoologische Verhandelingen. 65:1--62.

Mooney, N. (1992). Raptors entangled in plants. Australasian Raptor Association News. 13(3):52.

Mooney, N. (1993). Diet of the Masked Owl in Tasmania: past and present. Olsen, P.D., ed. Australian Raptor Studies. 160-174. Melbourne: Australasian Raptor Association/RAOU.

Norman, J.A., P.D. Olsen & L. Christidis (1998b). Molecular genetics confirms taxonomic affinities of the endangered Norfolk Island Boobook Ninox novaeseelandiae undulata. Biological Conservation. 86:33-36.

Olsen, J. & S. Trost (1998). Territorial and nesting behavior in the Southern Boobook (Ninox novaeseelandiae). In: Duncan, J.R., D.H. Johnson & T.H. Nicholls, eds. Biology and Conservation of Owls in the Northern Hemisphere. Page(s) 308-313. U.S. Dept Agriculture & Forest Service, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA.

Olsen, P., S.J.S. Debus, G.V. Czechura & N.J. Mooney (1990). Comparative feeding ecology of the Grey Goshawk Accipiter novaehollandiae and Brown Goshawk A. fasciatus. Australian Bird Watcher. 13:178-192.

Olsen, P.D. (1996). Re-establishment of an engandered subspecies: the Norfolk Island Boobook Owl. Bird Conservation International. 6:63-80.

Olsen, P.D. & R. Bartos (1997b). Home range of a Southern Boobook Ninox novaeseelandiae near Canberra, ACT. In: Czechura, G. & S. Debus, eds. Australian Raptor Studies II. Birds Australia Monograph 3. Page(s) 86-91.

Recher, H.F., ed. (1974). Environmental Survey of Lord Howe Island: A Report to the Lord Howe Island Board. Sydney, NSW: Australian Museum.

Recher, H.F. & S.S. Clark (1974). A biological survey of Lord Howe Island with recommendations for the conservation of the island's wildlife. Biological Conservation. 6:263-273.

Robinson, D., ed. (1984). Victorian Bird Report 1983. Melbourne, Bird Observers Club.

Schodde, R. & I.J. Mason (1980). Nocturnal Birds of Australia. Melbourne: Lansdowne.

Schodde, R., P. Fullagar & N. Hermes (1983). A review of Norfolk Island birds: past and present. Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service Special Publication. 8.

Stephenson, B.M. (1998). The Ecology and Breeding Biology of Morepork, Ninox novaeseelandiae, and Their Risk from Secondary Poisoning in New Zealand. M.Sc. Thesis. Unpublished MSc thesis, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.

Stokes, T. (1982). An analysis of raptor injuries treated in the Australian Capital Territory district 1976-80. Corella. 6:97-104.

Storr, G.M. (1984b). Birds of the Pilbara Region, Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement No. 16, Perth, Western Australian Museum.

Storr, G.M. (1988b). Birds of the Swan Coastal Plain. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement.

White, C.M.N. & M.D. Bruce (1986). The birds of Wallacea. B.O.U. Check-list. 7.

Whiter, J., ed. (1989). Birds. Nature in Eurobodalla. 4:4-31.

Wilson, S. (1990). N.S.W. area co-ordinator's annual report for 1989. Australasian Raptor Association News. 11(4):66-67.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Ninox novaeseelandiae albaria in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Sat, 23 Aug 2014 02:41:45 +1000.