St[rix]? Novae Hollandiae Stephens, 1826, New South Wales. Five or six subspecies recognized; doubtfully valid T. n. galei usually merged with kimberli, and Tasmanian castanops sometimes regarded as full species. Forms species complex with other masked owls in Melanesia and east Indonesia: golden masked owl (T. aurantia) in Bismarck Archipelago, Manus masked owl (T. manusi) in Admiralty Island, lesser masked owl (T. sororcula) in southern Moluccan and Tanimbar islands, Taliabu masked owl (T. nigrobrunnea) in Sula Islands, and Minahasa masked owl (T. inexspectata) in northern Sulawesi.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
English: Masked/tasmanian masked/chestnut-faced/cave owl; French: Effraie masquйe; German: Neuhollandeule; Spanish: Lechuza Australiana.
Male 13–17 in (33–42 cm), 0.9–1.8 lb (420–800 g); female 15–22 in (38–57 cm), 1.2–2.8 lb (545–1260 g). Large, pale or dark owl with large eyes set in rounded facial disc, large feet. Mottled brown and rufous (orange-brown to reddish brown) dorsally with rufous underside, or mottled gray and buff dorsally with white underside. Wings barred, underside finely spotted. Female larger. Juvenile has downy head and thighs when first fledged.
Two or three subspecies peripheral in continental north, northeast and south Australia; one subspecies in Tasmania; one subspecies on islands off northern Australia; and one subspecies in southern New Guinea.
Tall, grassy forest and woodland, often near open country, extending into treeless areas where there are caves.
Nocturnal, solitary, secretive. Roosts in tree hollows, dense foliage in gullies, or in caves. Sedentary. Territorial when breeding, advertising with a loud, harsh screech. Defends home range of 1.5–4.2 mi2 (4–11 km2).
FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET
Preys mostly on terrestrial mammals, especially rodents, which it detects by watching and listening from perches.
Monogamous. Laying recorded in most months, but usually autumn to spring. Nests in tree hollow. Clutch 1–4 eggs, usually two or three, incubated for 33–35 days. Fledge at two months.
Widespread, but uncommon to rare. Listed on Appendix II of CITES. Two continental Australian subspecies are classified as Near Threatened and two island subspecies (Tasmania and Northern Territory) are Endangered under the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
Prominent in the old-growth forest debate in Australia in the 1990s, as an indicator species for sustainable logging practices.
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