Australian Wildlife Sounds

Owl Calls

Australian Boobook

Australian Boobook (Ninox boobook)

Australian Boobook (Ninox boobook)
Photo Credit: Paul Balfe / License: CC BY 2.0

The Australian Boobook (Ninox boobook) is Australia’s smallest and most common species of owl. Often called the ‘Southern Boobook’, ‘boobook owl’, ‘mopoke’ or ‘morepork’, this versatile species is found throughout mainland Australia, Timor, the Sundas and also southern Papua New Guinea. As a result of recent taxonomic changes, the species found on mainland Australian has been named ‘Australian Boobook’ (Ninox boobook).

Australian Boobooks can live in a wide variety of habitats including rainforests, semi-deserts, farmland and even city parks. Despite being common and widespread, they are often hard to see during the day as they generally roost well-hidden in dense foliage.

Listen to Australian Boobook Sounds

The call of the Australian Boobook is one of the most common sounds of the Australian bush at night. Typical calls consist of a double note ‘boo-book’ which can be heard throughout the year. They also make a lower-pitched, rapid call, a grating call which sounds not unlike the call of the Glossy Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami) and less commonly a ‘yeow’ call. Juveniles often make a trilling or hissing-type call which can be heard at the end of the video below.

The video below contains five different call types of the Southern Boobook:
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Australian Boobook – Typical song


 B22h18m42sa This first sample features the classic two-note calls of the Southern Boobook. Crickets call in the background and towards the end of the track Common Eastern Froglet (Crinia signifera) can be heard calling from the adjacent marsh. Recorded in Dharug National Park, NSW.

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Australian Boobook – Rapid Call


B22h18m42sb This sample starts with typical calls which soon accelerate into a lower-pitched rapid call. The growl at 00:18 is a Common Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) and the call of Common Eastern Froglet (Crinia signifera) can be heard between 0:25-0:34. 

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Australian Boobook – Grating Call


XC201470 This third sample was recorded in Wollemi National Park, NSW, and begins with some typical call phrases. From 0:16 a few grating calls can be heard from a second bird in the background. Eastern Yellow Robin (Eopsaltria australis) & Superb Fairywren (Malurus cyaneus) can be heard calling as well.

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Australian Boobook – ‘Yeow’ Call


XC416600 This recording features a less commonly-heard vocalisation – a series of ‘yeow’ notes. Recorded in Wollemi NP, NSW.

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Australian Boobook – Typical Song


XC171992 In this recording, typical two-note calls can be heard with the repetitive ‘yip’ calls of Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps) in the background. 

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Painting of a Southern Boobook by 'The Sydney Bird Painter'

Watercolour painting of a Southern Boobook by ‘The Sydney Bird Painter’. This pre-1800 painting is held by the National Gallery of Victoria.