So-named because their call sounds like a barking dog, these impressive birds are very popular with visitors to the Sanctuary.
Barking Owls are classed as ‘least concern’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (on the IUCN ‘red list). However, their conservation status in Australia varies from state to state. In Victoria they are listed as an endangered species; in 2003 there were estimated to be fewer than 50 breeding pairs. The main threat to the species in Victoria is loss of habitat, especially large trees with hollows in which they can nest and on which many of their prey depend.
Encountering these birds at Healesville Sanctuary is an important way to connect with the wild birds of Australia and to learn about the Sanctuary’s conservation programs, especially those aimed at conserving threatened native species. The money you spend helps to support the Sanctuary’s conservation programs and its care of native wildlife, as well as fight species extinction.
Barking Owls are native to Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
Barking Owls are most common in savannah woodland, although they also inhabit well-forested hill and riverine woodlands. They are widely distributed throughout Australia, but are absent from central areas. They are found in every Australian state/territory except Tasmania. They are not found in the Centre or western deserts.
Although moderately common, Barking Owls are more often heard than seen (typical of most nocturnal birds). Apart from a bark, they may utter a chilling ‘scream’ when they feel threatened.
The Barking Owl is a medium-sized (35 to 45 cm) hawk-owl. They weigh around 700 grams.
They hunt mostly at night for birds, small mammals and invertebrates.
Hawk-owls lack the definite heart-shaped face of the tyto-owls (which include the Barn Owl). Adult Barking Owls are grey-brown above, with white spots on the wings, and whitish below, heavily streaked with grey-brown. The head is almost entirely grey-brown, and the eyes are large and yellow.
The owls nest in tree hollows and lay 2–4 eggs.
Young Barking Owls have less streaking on the underparts and are mottled white and grey-brown on the rear of the neck.
- Barking Owls have off-set ears, one ear is higher than the other, this adaptation allows them to hear both left and right and up and down to which gives them the ability to hear and locate prey in virtually no light.