Further boobook studies focus on genetics

Boobook chick on Norfolk Island | Photo Parks Australia

Diurnal hunting and activity is creating interest and questions about the owls

This summer has been a very rewarding season for park staff as we’ve seen the first recorded breeding of boobook owls in three years.

We are now monitoring a family who appear to be thriving. But what is particularly interesting is the amount of daytime activity they are exhibiting. This recent pic shows them hunting in broad daylight which is really unusual.

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 by breeding it with the closely-related New Zealand morepork owl numbers grew to around 40 birds. But in 2007 breeding began to drop off and we weren’t sure why.

We’re investigating the possibility of testing the genetics of the owls to see if they have retained their Norfolk Island characteristics or become an essentially inbred population of the New Zealand moreporks.

Inbreeding has been known to lower fecundity so we’re particularly interested in what effects it might have on their fertility success.

Vanessa, Norfolk Island National Park

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