Birda Logo
Species Guide
A photo of a Australian Masked Owl (Tyto novaehollandiae)
Australian Masked Owl

Australian Masked Owl

Tyto novaehollandiae

The Australian masked owl, Tyto novaehollandiae, is a member of the barn owl family, Tytonidae. It is a striking bird with a distinctive white, heart-shaped facial disc framed by brown feathers. The dorsal plumage is a rich brown, peppered with light gray spots on the upper back, while the front is predominantly white with brown speckles. The eyes of this species range from black to dark brown, adding to their enigmatic appearance.

Identification Tips

Sexual dimorphism is evident in the Australian masked owl, with females generally exhibiting darker shades and larger sizes than their male counterparts. Males typically weigh between 420 to 800 grams and measure 330 to 410 millimeters in length, while females can weigh from 545 to 1,260 grams and span 390 to 500 millimeters in length. The wingspan of southern female masked owls can reach up to 1,280 millimeters. Notably, the Tasmanian subspecies is the largest within the barn-owl family, surpassing even the greater sooty owl in size and weight.


This owl prefers timbered landscapes with shrubby undergrowth and is rarely found more than 300 kilometers inland in Australia. They favor large tree hollows for roosting and nesting, situated near areas rich in prey.


The Australian masked owl is native to Southern New Guinea and the non-desert regions of Australia. It has a presence in Tasmania and has been introduced to Lord Howe Island.


Nocturnal by nature, the Australian masked owl hunts for a variety of prey, including rodents, small marsupials, rabbits, bats, birds, reptiles, and insects. While they primarily hunt on the ground, they are also capable of capturing prey in trees or mid-flight. They are territorial and tend to remain in the same area once a breeding territory is established.


Breeding can occur at any time of the year, provided conditions are favorable. Nests are typically located in hollow trees filled with soil, mulch, or sand, though some populations utilize caves or rock crevices. The female lays two to three eggs, which she incubates while the male forages for food. The chicks are white or off-white upon feathering and leave the nest at two to three months of age, though they continue to receive parental care for an additional month.

Similar Species

The Australian masked owl can be distinguished from other owls by its large size, particularly in the case of the Tasmanian subspecies, and its unique heart-shaped facial disc.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Australian masked owl is diverse, including terrestrial prey such as rodents and small marsupials, as well as birds, bats, and insects. They are adept hunters both on the ground and in the air.

Conservation status

The Australian masked owl is currently listed as Least Concern by the IUCN. However, the mainland population is in decline, and several Australian states have recognized the species as threatened or vulnerable. Conservation efforts are underway, including an Action Statement prepared under Victoria's Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.

App logo
Birda is a birdwatching app and community aimed at curious people who want to deepen their connection with nature.

Australian Masked Owls on Birda

A map showing the sighting location
Kayley Fouche
27 Jun 2024 - 4:10pm

More Barn Owls

A photo of a Sri Lanka Bay Owl (Phodilus assimilis)

Sri Lanka Bay Owl

Phodilus assimilis
Birda Logo

Your birdwatching journey like never before

Connect with nature in minutes
Take a walk, look out of the window and log the birds that you see. Feel good about those little connections to nature.
Discover the joy of birding
Find new birding spots, see more birds, share and celebrate with a like-minded community of nature lovers.
Play your part in saving nature
Logging your birding sightings and sessions turns into positive action for our planet. Every sighting counts.

Birda Blog

What Our Birders Say
Very Wholesome App
Joined this app with a new interest in watching birds to help me find out what I was spotting. The community is very active in helping identify birds which is great and everyone is very kind so it’s just a nice wholesome community. I would definitely recommend this for any bird spotter πŸ˜„
Birda fan
I really enjoy using Birda, all sightings are recorded and photos can be added. There are monthly challenges which help to get you out to record your sightings. The Birda community are great and are happy to help with unidentified bird sightings. Suitable for all ages and experience!
Bryan C
Clean and easy to use
Really enjoying this app, it's clean and easy to use. I love the ease of being able to add those one-off birds without starting a whole checklist. I also like the social aspect, like the parts of my Facebook I like, without the ads and junk, just birds. Can't wait to see it become more populated.
Awesome App
I really enjoy using this app! It is such a friendly community of bird-lovers who are happy to help if I need ID advice. It’s been great motivation to get outdoors and go birding more! 10/10 😍😍
Emma L
App got me interested in birding!
Super friendly community <3 This app got me interested in birding! It teaches me cool stuff and its super friendly, and fun :) The species guide is really developing my knowledge, and i love seeing cool new birds from round the world!
The best bird logging app
Birda is honestly the best bird logging app I have seen. I love all the features it has from being able to do a session and log all the birds you see in one sitting, to being able to connect with other birders from all over the globe!
Gets me outdoors more
I'm still loving this app. I use it most days & gets me outdoors more. Enjoying watching others progress and photo's, it's improved my wellbeing.... I love this app! I can keep a record of sightings and see what others have seen too.
Paul F
Very good database
Highly recommend. It great that this app shows you male Vs female variations when posting. Very good database I'm really impressed.
Hip An
Really enjoying Birda where I live i have a lot of Red kites really hard to photograph but I can video are you planning some place on the app where us Birda can post vidsπŸ¦‰πŸ¦…
Wonderful App
Birda is my go to app for keeping records of my bird sightings and sessions. It has fantastic information which is great at aiding identification. With all the updates that are coming in the new year, this app is something special.
As featured in
Birda Logo
AboutPressAmbassadorsAffiliatesInfluencersCareersPrivacyTerms & Conditions
An app for birdwatchers
Connect with us
Copyright Β© 2024 Chirp Birding. All rights reserved.