What do they look like? They are a large, rufous-coloured Owl from the tropical rainforest. The forehead, crown, nape, back and upper wings are dark rufous, finely barred light brown. The upper tail is similar but with broader bars. The facial disc is indistinct and blackish brown. The throat, breast, and belly are rich rufous, finely and closely barred cream, the bars becoming broader and fewer from the throat backwards. Under the wings and tail is light brown, broadly barred cream. Rufous Owls have a long tail and feathered legs with pale yellow or creamy toes and black talons. Iris is yellow and the bill is pale horn with short black bristles at the base. The male always larger than the female and tends to have a broader, flatter head. Newly fledged young are much smaller than the parents and still part downy.
Where do they live? Arnhem Land and northern Kimberleys, eastern Cape York Peninsula, and the Mackay district of eastern Queensland. Rufous Owls are also found in New Guinea and the Aru Islands. The Rufus Owl roosts in leafy trees in rainforests, monsoon forest; wet, forested gullies, and adjoining woodland.
What do they eat? The Rufous Owl is an extremely versatile and powerful hunter taking a variety of prey from beetles to large birds and flying foxes.
Behaviour: They are a wary unobtrusive bird, elusive and unpredictable.
Reproduction: Like most Ninox, the Rufous Owl has a regular breeding season with egg laying varying from June in the Northern Territory to September in north-east Queensland. Individual females appear to lay at the same time each year. As nesting approaches, both birds roost close together. After dark, the male calls with a double hoot and the female may fly to him. Pairs perch side by side and the male preens the nape of the female’s neck while she picks at his toes with her bill.
Threats: Clearance of habitat for agriculture has resulted in a loss of about 85% of lowland vegetation in the wet tropics (Garnett et al., 1999), and continues, particularly along the western edge of the subspecies’ range, where sugarcane farming is expanding. However, Rufous Owls have persisted in uncleared riparian vegetation and other forest fragments, as well as in extensive tracts of rainforest in National Parks and State Forests. Localised threats include loss of nest trees to hot, late dry season fires, which burn the fringes of gallery rainforest and paperrbark thickets (J. Young). Poisoning with rat baits may also be a localised problem (Young and De Lai, 1997), but remains unproven (P. Olsen).
Conservation Status: Rufous Owl numbers vary from state to state and the species is listed as either vulnerable/near endangered in most regions. This is due to the decline in Rufous Owl numbers around the country.