Nature conservation

Threatened species

Barking Owl - profile

Indicative distribution

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The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Ninox connivens
Conservation status in NSW: Vulnerable
Commonwealth status: Not listed
Gazetted date: 12 Jun 1998
Profile last updated: 19 Jan 2021


The Barking Owl is medium-sized owl (42 cm, 650 g), smaller than the similar Powerful Owl and larger than the Southern Boobook. It has bright yellow eyes and no facial-disc. Upperparts are brown or greyish-brown, and the white breast is vertically streaked with brown. The large talons are yellow. Males are typically larger than their mate and have a more square crown. The quick, dog-like ‘wook-wook’ territorial call is diagnostic, but the yapping of foxes, dogs and even Sugar Gliders is sometimes attributed to this species. Pairs of birds perform call-and-answer duets, the male's tone being the deeper, which often rise to an excited rapid pitch. This species is also famous for a rarely used high-pitched tremulous scream that has earned it the name ‘screaming-woman bird'.


The Barking Owl is found throughout continental Australia except for the central arid regions. Although still common in parts of northern Australia, the species has declined greatly in southern Australia and now occurs in a wide but sparse distribution in NSW. Core populations exist on the western slopes and plains and in some northeast coastal and escarpment forests. Many populations crashed as woodland on fertile soils was cleared over the past century, leaving linear riparian strips of remnant trees as the last inhabitable areas. Surveys in 2001 demonstrated that the Pilliga Forest supported the largest population in southern Australia. The owls sometimes extend their home range into urban areas, hunting birds in garden trees and insects attracted to streetlights. Extensive wildfires in 2019-20 reduced habitat quality further, burnt many old, hollow-bearing trees needed as refuge by prey species and reduced the viability of some regional owl populations.  

Habitat and ecology

  • Inhabits woodland and open forest, including fragmented remnants and partly cleared farmland. It is flexible in its habitat use, and hunting can extend in to closed forest and more open areas. Sometimes able to successfully breed along timbered watercourses in heavily cleared habitats (e.g. western NSW) due to the higher density of prey found on these fertile riparian soils.
  • Roost in shaded portions of tree canopies, including tall midstorey trees with dense foliage such as Acacia and Casuarina species. During nesting season, the male perches in a nearby tree overlooking the hollow entrance.
  • Preferentially hunts small arboreal mammals such as Squirrel Gliders and Common Ringtail Possums, but when loss of tree hollows decreases these prey populations the owl becomes more reliant on birds, invertebrates and terrestrial mammals such as rodents and rabbits. Can catch bats and moths on the wing, but typically hunts by sallying from a tall perch.
  • Requires very large permanent territories in most habitats due to sparse prey densities. Monogamous pairs hunt over as much as 6000 hectares, with 2000 hectares being more typical in NSW habitats.
  • Two or three eggs are laid in hollows of large, old trees. Living eucalypts are preferred though dead trees are also used. Nest sites are used repeatedly over years by a pair, but they may switch sites if disturbed by predators (e.g. goannas).
  • Nesting occurs during mid-winter and spring, being variable between pairs and among years. As a rule of thumb, laying occurs during August and fledging in November. The female incubates for 5 weeks, roosts outside the hollow when chicks are 4 weeks old, then fledging occurs 2-3 weeks later. Young are dependent on their parents for several months.
  • Territorial pairs respond strongly to recordings of Barking Owl calls from up to 6 km away, though humans rarely hear this response farther than 1.5 km. Because disturbance reduces the pair’s foraging time, and can pull the female off her eggs even on cold nights, recordings should not be broadcast unnecessarily nor during the nesting season.

Regional distribution and habitat

Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
Australian AlpsSnowy Mountains Known None
Brigalow Belt SouthLiverpool Plains Known None
Brigalow Belt SouthLiverpool Range Known None
Brigalow Belt SouthMoonie-Barwon Interfluve Predicted None
Brigalow Belt SouthNarrandool Known None
Brigalow Belt SouthNorthern Basalts Known None
Brigalow Belt SouthNorthern Outwash Known None
Brigalow Belt SouthPilliga Known None
Brigalow Belt SouthPilliga Outwash Known None
Brigalow Belt SouthTalbragar Valley Known None
Broken Hill ComplexBarrier Range Outwash Predicted None
Broken Hill ComplexMootwingee Downs Known None
Broken Hill ComplexScopes Range Predicted None
Channel CountryBulloo Predicted None
Channel CountryBulloo Dunefields Predicted None
Channel CountryCentral Depression Predicted None
Channel CountryCore Ranges Known None
Channel CountrySturt Stony Desert Known None
Cobar PeneplainBarnato Downs Known None
Cobar PeneplainBoorindal Plains Predicted None
Cobar PeneplainCanbelego Downs Known None
Cobar PeneplainLachlan Plains Known None
Cobar PeneplainNymagee Known None
Darling Riverine PlainsBogan-Macquarie Known None
Darling Riverine PlainsCastlereagh-Barwon Known None
Darling Riverine PlainsCulgoa-Bokhara Known None
Darling Riverine PlainsGreat Darling Anabranch Predicted None
Darling Riverine PlainsLouth Plains Known None
Darling Riverine PlainsMenindee Known None
Darling Riverine PlainsPooncarie-Darling Known None
Darling Riverine PlainsWarrambool-Moonie Known None
Darling Riverine PlainsWilcannia Plains Predicted None
Mulga LandsCuttaburra-Paroo Predicted None
Mulga LandsKerribree Basin Predicted None
Mulga LandsNebine Plains Known None
Mulga LandsParoo Overflow Predicted None
Mulga LandsParoo-Darling Sands Predicted None
Mulga LandsWarrego Plains Predicted None
Mulga LandsWarrego Sands Predicted None
Mulga LandsWest Warrego Predicted None
Mulga LandsWhite Cliffs Plateau Predicted None
Murray Darling DepressionDarling Depression Known None
Murray Darling DepressionSouth Olary Plain Known None
NandewarInverell Basalts Known None
NandewarKaputar Predicted None
NandewarNandewar Northern Complex Known None
NandewarPeel Known None
New England TablelandsArmidale Plateau Known None
New England TablelandsBeardy River Hills Known None
New England TablelandsBinghi Plateau Known None
New England TablelandsBundarra Downs Known None
New England TablelandsDeepwater Downs Known None
New England TablelandsEastern Nandewars Known None
New England TablelandsEbor Basalts Known None
New England TablelandsGlenn Innes-Guyra Basalts Known None
New England TablelandsMoredun Volcanics Known None
New England TablelandsNightcap Predicted None
New England TablelandsNortheast Forest Lands Known None
New England TablelandsRound Mountain Known None
New England TablelandsSevern River Volcanics Known None
New England TablelandsStanthorpe Plateau Known None
New England TablelandsTenterfield Plateau Predicted None
New England TablelandsTingha Plateau Known None
New England TablelandsWalcha Plateau Known None
New England TablelandsWongwibinda Plateau Known None
New England TablelandsYarrowyck-Kentucky Downs Predicted None
NSW North CoastBarrington Known None
NSW North CoastCarrai Plateau Predicted None
NSW North CoastCataract Predicted None
NSW North CoastChaelundi Known None
NSW North CoastCoffs Coast and Escarpment Known None
NSW North CoastComboyne Plateau Known None
NSW North CoastDalmorton Known None
NSW North CoastEllerston Predicted None
NSW North CoastGuy Fawkes Predicted None
NSW North CoastKaruah Manning Known None
NSW North CoastMacleay Gorges Predicted None
NSW North CoastMacleay Hastings Known None
NSW North CoastMummel Escarpment Known None
NSW North CoastRocky River Gorge Predicted None
NSW North CoastTomalla Predicted None
NSW North CoastUpper Hunter Known None
NSW North CoastUpper Manning Known None
NSW North CoastWashpool Predicted None
NSW North CoastYuraygir Predicted None
NSW South Western SlopesCapertee Valley Known None
NSW South Western SlopesInland Slopes Known None
NSW South Western SlopesLower Slopes Known None
OceanBatemans Shelf Known None
OceanHawkesbury Shelf Known None
Other StateACT Known None
Other StateJervis Bay Territory Known None
Other StateQLD Known None
Other StateSA Known None
Other StateVIC Known None
RiverinaLachlan Known None
RiverinaMurray Fans Known None
RiverinaMurray Scroll Belt Predicted None
RiverinaMurrumbidgee Known None
RiverinaRobinvale Plains Known None
South East CornerBateman Known None
South East CornerEast Gippsland Lowlands Known None
South East CornerSouth East Coastal Ranges Known None
South Eastern HighlandsBathurst Known None
South Eastern HighlandsBondo Known None
South Eastern HighlandsBungonia Known None
South Eastern HighlandsCapertee Uplands Known None
South Eastern HighlandsHill End Known None
South Eastern HighlandsKanangra Known None
South Eastern HighlandsKybeyan-Gourock Known None
South Eastern HighlandsMonaro Known None
South Eastern HighlandsOberon Known None
South Eastern HighlandsOrange Known None
South Eastern QueenslandBurringbar-Conondale Ranges Known None
South Eastern QueenslandClarence Lowlands Known None
South Eastern QueenslandClarence Sandstones Known None
South Eastern QueenslandScenic Rim Known None
South Eastern QueenslandSunshine Coast-Gold Coast Lowlands Known None
South Eastern QueenslandWoodenbong Known None
Sydney BasinBurragorang Known None
Sydney BasinCumberland Known None
Sydney BasinEttrema Known None
Sydney BasinHunter Known None
Sydney BasinIllawarra Known None
Sydney BasinJervis Known None
Sydney BasinKerrabee Known None
Sydney BasinMoss Vale Known None
Sydney BasinPittwater Known None
Sydney BasinWollemi Known None
Sydney BasinWyong Known None
Sydney BasinYengo Known None