Migrating Boobooks

Subject: Migrating Boobooks
From: Michael Todd <>
Date: Sat, 26 Mar 2011 14:06:49 +1100
Hello all,

I have a question re Southern Boobooks in Victoria, in particular
Tasmanian Boobooks in Victoria.

In Victoria the Southern Boobook is represented by the subspecies
Ninox novaeseelandiae boobook, while in Tasmania it is represented by
the subspecies N. n. leucops. The Victorian Boobooks have been
described as being mostly streaked on the chest and with the iris of
the eyes being greyish-green. Note that there is a considerable degree
of variation in Boobooks on the mainland which could certainly cause
some confusion.

In Tasmania, boobooks are generally darker more uniform chocolate
brown, with a brown underneath with white spots under and also spots
on the wings. The iris of the eyes is bright yellow. They are also
considerably smaller in size (contra Bergmanns Rule). You can see some
photos of Boobooks from Tasmania and New South Wales on my website,
see below (or you can just go to and follow
the relevant links):
Just copy and paste the address above into a browser.

My experience so far has made me feel that Tasmanian Boobooks look
quite distinctive although I haven't compared any museum specimens at
this stage. There have been some reports in the past of Tasmanian
Boobooks regularly migrating to the mainland, mostly Victoria but
occasionally New South Wales as well. Mees (1964), reported on it
quite matter-of-factly in his review of Australian owls. He mostly
dealt with museum specimens, most of which were in overseas museums,
but classified a reasonable number of owls in Vic as having come from
Tas. He even identified an owl specimen collected in Sydney as a
Tasmanian Boobook. He also referred to an owl having been collected 50
km offshore of Tasmania near the Hunter Islands. Lawrie Conole reports
having seen some owls in the 1980's in the Otways with yellow eyes.

If Tasmanian Boobooks do migrate regularly to the Australian mainland
I believe this would make them the only owl migrant in Australia. Note
that there are a number of owl species that regularly migrate in North
America. Note also the regular migration of other bird species between
Tas and the mainland including Silvereye, Grey Fantail, Satin
Flycatcher, Blue-winged Parrot, not to mention the breeding endemics
like the Swift Parrot, Orange-bellied Parrot.

So my question is: Can anybody else tell me whether they have seen
what they believe to be Tasmanian Boobooks in Victoria (or NSW for
that matter), and if so can you tell me how they were identified?


Mick Todd


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

Michael Todd
PhD Candidate
School of Zoology,
University of Tasmania

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