Boobooks at Christmas

The Christmas Lights spectacular turns the normally quiet-by-night Toowoomba Botanical Gardens into a riot of colour and sound, the kind of place any nocturnal animal would avoid like the plague. So, I was happy to hear, and then spot, a calling Southern Boobook Owl, sitting in a hollow in a Plane Tree less than 50 metres from all the Yuletide commotion.

Christmas lights spectacular, Toowoomba

Trees adjacent to the riot and colour of the Toowoomba Christmas lights spectacular are home to some interesting wildlife, despite being non-natives. Photo R. Ashdown.

Southern Boobook Owl

Southern Boobook Owl (Ninox novaeseelandiae). This one was photographed sleeping in a Casuarina in Brisbane. This is the smallest and most common owl in Australia. By day they hide in tree hollows or thick foliage. Their two-syllable call of mo-poke or more-poke is often mistakenly thought to be the call of the Tawny Frogmouth. Boobooks breed from September to February each year, raising from one to three young in a hollow. Young birds stay in the nest until they are five to six weeks old. Photo R. Ashdown

I returned several times with camera gear, but was unable to get a photo of the owls. I did spot three birds quietly flying about, so perhaps they have raised one or two young in the park. The “mopoke” call of these birds is heard throughout East Toowoomba every summer, and since Christmas they have been calling in trees several blocks away from the Gardens. A most evocative night-time sound.

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