Barking Owl
Ninox connivens
Population size
Life Span
10-20 years
g oz 
mm inch 
mm inch 

The barking owl (Ninox connivens ), also known as the winking owl, is a nocturnal bird species native to mainland Australia and parts of New Guinea and the Moluccas. They are a medium-sized brown owl and have a characteristic voice with calls ranging from a barking dog noise to a shrill human-like howl of great intensity.


The Barking owl is a medium-sized bird of prey that has a characteristic voice with calls ranging from a barking dog noise to a shrill human-like howl of great intensity. This owl is colored brown with white spots on its wings and a vertically streaked chest. It has large eyes that have a yellow iris, a discrete facial mask, and yellow skin on the feet. The underparts are brownish-grey and coarsely spotted white with the tail and flight feathers being strongly banded brown and white.



Barking owls are native to mainland Australia and parts of Papua New Guinea and the Moluccas (Halmahera, Morotai, Bacan, and Obi). They prefer to live in forests or woodland areas often near river, swamp or creek beds. Although Barking owls are uncommon and sometimes even rare in many suburban areas, they occasionally may start to nest in streets or near farm houses.

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Barking owls are sedentary and usually found in pairs. They are nocturnal, however, sometimes may call and even hunt during the day. These owls hunt in timbered and open habitats but usually rely on trees as hunting perches. Their diet includes prey taken from the ground, the trees, the surface of water bodies, and directly from the air. Most people hear Barking owls rather than see them as they have a loud and explosive voice. The main territorial vocalization is in the form of a double 'hoot', similar in pattern to the other Australian hawk owls. It sounds like a double dog bark that so closely resembles a small dog that it is difficult to tell the difference. Males 'bark' at a lower pitch than females, particularly when a pair performs the barking calls together. Barking calls can be varied in pitch and intensity depending on the purpose of the call. Loud barks are given as territorial calls and can be used in confrontations between pairs in adjacent territories. Lower pitched softer barks are often used around the nest or roost areas by the male to call the female for a meal. These birds also have a range of other vocalizations such as growls, howls or screams, and bleating and twittering. Growls and howls are often related to threats, particularly during nesting.

Group name
Seasonal behavior
Bird's call

Diet and Nutrition

Barking owls are carnivores and have one of the broadest diets of any Australian owl. They feed on a variety of small to medium-sized mammals, birds, insects, and occasionally frogs, reptiles, fish, or crustaceans.

Mating Habits

36-38 days
owlet, fledgling
2-3 eggs

Barking owls are monogamous and form strong pair bonds that last for life. Their breeding season occurs from August until October. Pairs nest is a large hollow in the tree trunk or sometimes in rock crevices and even rabbit burrows. The female lays 2-3 eggs and incubates them for 36-38 days, while the male supplies the food. Owlets usually fledge 35 days after hatching and become independent from their parents a few months before the next breeding season.


Population threats

The main threat to Barking owls is the loss of habitat, particularly the deterioration or loss of the large, hollow-bearing trees on which these birds depend for nesting. Hollows suitable for nesting for owls do not form in eucalypts until they are at least 150-200 years old. Similarly, hollows are an important resource for many prey species of Barking owls such as gliders and possums. Such trees are not being regrown rapidly enough to exceed expected losses in the next century. The removal of dead, standing trees, and stags for firewood is also likely to remove nesting sites for these owls. Native prey species such as arboreal mammals and hollow-nesting birds have declined in some areas through the clearing of native vegetation, loss of hollows, and the impact of introduced predators.

Population number

The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Barking owl total population size. According to the State Wide Integrated Flora and Fauna Teams (SWIFFT) resource the population size of this species is fewer than 50 pairs in Victoria (Australia). Currently, Barking owls are classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but their numbers today are decreasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Barking owls enjoy bathing early in the morning.
  • Owls can't move their eyes from side-to-side but are able to turn their head 270 degrees.
  • It is believed that owls are the smartest of all birds.
  • The screaming of the Barking owl is said to sound like a woman or child screaming in pain. Hearings of 'screaming lady,' as it is so nicknamed, are rare, and many only hear the sound once in their life even if they live next to a Barking owl nest. While screams are usually related to nest defense, some Barking owls will make this call in non-nest related situations. Myths surround the events that caused the owl to originally "mimic" these sounds.
  • When Barking owl fledglings beg for food, they emit a twittering, insect-like call. Female Barking owls will often make a gentle bleating sound when receiving food from their partner.


1. Barking Owl on Wikipedia -
2. Barking Owl on The IUCN Red List site -
3. Xeno-canto bird call -

More Fascinating Animals to Learn About