This summer season has been a huge relief for park staff – the first recorded breeding of boobook owls in three years! We’ve heard owls calling across the island, and there’ve been some great sightings by park staff and visitors.
The boobook was almost extinct in the mid 1980s, with just one female bird left on the island – and therefore the world. After a concerted effort to reintroduce the species, numbers grew to around 40 owls. But in 2007 breeding began to drop off and we weren’t sure why.
We had a number of theories and we were working on how to test them. It’s possible that genetic in-breeding was causing problems, or food supply was down because of the long dry spell a couple of years ago. It was also possible we had reached the maximum number of owls that Norfolk could support, or maybe the breeding had moved outside of the park where there were still some open ‘territories’.
But this season we’ve captured images of a female owl nesting. We’ve also monitored daytime activity which is very interesting – we’ve seen the female looking out of the nest in daylight as well as the male bringing food to new chicks during the day.
Also, three owls were recently spotted together which indicates at least one is a new recruit to the island!
We’re closely monitoring these new developments. In the meantime, please let the rangers at the national park know if you spot owls roosting in the daytime. It provides really useful information on diet, distribution and habitat and might just help save our Norfolk Island boobook.
Coral, Norfolk Island National Park
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