************ Thanks everyone - this pic made Explore #489 on July 14 2007 **********
A beautiful owl! This raptor is being taken for an afternoon walk by its keeper, Simon, around the Zoo. Just very lucky timing on my part!
The Australian Masked Owl (Tyto novaehollandiae) is a type of barn owl of the non-desert areas of Australia. The facial disk is white and has short brown feathers around dark brown or black eyes forming a heart shaped outline. They are blackish brown with grey and white spots on the upper body. The underparts are white with brown spots. The female is a darker color than the male. The average weight is 660gm with females larger than the male. The length is 35-47cm. They are one of Australia's largest owls. The Tasmanian Masked Owl can reach 51 cm, and is as large as a Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua).
The sexes are similar in plumage, but the females are markedly larger and generally darker than the males. The call is a deep, rasping screech.
The Masked Owl inhabits forests, woodlands, timbered waterways and open country on the fringe of these areas. The main requirements are tall trees with suitable hollows for nesting and roosting and adjacent areas for foraging. The range is a broad coastal band around most of mainland Australia and throughout Tasmania, and for the most part is less than 300 km from the coast. Population numbers are low on the mainland and several states give this species special conservation status. This owl is widespread and abundant in Tasmania.
The Australian Masked Owl inhabits forest, bush lands waterways with timber. They roost and nest in large tree hollows near foraging areas. They are nocturnal and their prey includes rodents, reptiles, birds, insects and bandicoots. The population of the Australian Masked Owl on the mainland is declining and several states have this owl on the Species Conservation Status list. They are territorial and remain in the same area all their lives.
Royal Melbourne Zoo, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.