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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Morepork Facts: 13 Facts You Won’t Believe!

Morepork facts for kids to learn about this Tasmanian spotted owl.

The bird that stands out from the rest due to its unique characteristics is the most widespread owl species, Ruru Morepork. They are generally considered a symbol of wisdom, intelligence, and regal silence in some traditions. They are great thinkers and hunters as they plan out their strategies instead of force attack. Are you curious to learn more about this amazing bird, like what they eat, where they live, and some more exciting facts? Then here we go.

The Morepork, also scientifically called Ninox novaeseelandiae, is a small dark-brown owl native to New Zealand apart from the Barn owl. These owls have almost 20 common names, including Ruru, Mopoke, and Boobook. These names are onomatopoeic, as they are derived from their haunting, distinctive two-tone melancholic call. The Morepork owl was described by German naturalist Johann Friedrich Gmelin in 1788. The Australian boobook of mainland Australia was distinct from the Morepork, but they were considered the same species until 1999.

Read below for more interesting and important facts about these Moreporks. If you love to read about similar birds, check out our other articles on owls and the barn owl.

Morepork Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Morepork?

The Morepork (Ninox novaeseelandiae) is a small, dark-brown, native owl species found in New Zealand. These owls are sedentary within their range and don't migrate. They are mainly nocturnal, and actively hunt for their prey at night.

What class of animal does a Morepork belong to?

The Morepork is a bird that belongs to the owl species of Aves class and Strigidae family.

How many Moreporks are there in the world?

The Morepork population size is not precisely known. They are widespread and generally abundant in New Zealand. However, the population of these birds is in gradual decline due to loss of habitat, predation, and illegal trade.

Where does a Morepork live?

Moreporks, also called Ruru, are commonly found in New Zealand forests and surrounding islands. These owls are also widespread in Tasmania's eucalypt forests, King Island, and the Bass Strait islands. They also live in the pine forests of Norfolk Island.

What is a Morepork's habitat?

Moreporks are widely found in most habitats within the cavities of trees in exotic forests dominated by conifers, alpine tree lines, and other hardwoods. These birds are adapted to living in pine plantations, mainly inhabit dark forest areas with high overhead cover, on a branch, on top of a tree fern, or in thick vegetation, including wooded farmland, some urban parks, and gardens.

Who does Morepork live with?

The Morepork (Ninox novaeseelandiae) is usually seen living singly, in pairs, or in small family groups. A group of Morepork is generally called a parliament or stare.

How long does a Morepork live?

The Morepork, also called Ruru, lives up to 11 years. They usually make their nests in tree holes to hatch, thus become easy targets for wild cats, stoats, and possums.

How do they reproduce?

The breeding season usually happens between September and February. They nest in tree cavities that are large enough to have hollows. The female bird lays two to three eggs and incubates them for about 20-30 days, whereas the male bird brings in food for her. The female birds stay mainly on the nest until the eggs hatch and owlets are fully feathered. The owlets fledge around 37-42 days and usually remain with their parents until they reach reproductive maturity at two to three years of age.

What is their conservation status?

The IUCN listed the Morepork as a species of Least Concern on account of its large range and stable population. The import, export, and trade are made illegal to protect them.

Morepork Fun Facts

What do Moreporks look like?

The Morepork (Ninox novaeseelandiae) is an owl with a dark-brown head and striking yellowish-green eyes set in a dark facial mask with a black sharp hooked bill. They have pale brown spots on the head and neck with white spots and streaks on the rest of the upper parts. The feathers on the head, neck, chin, and throat are buff with dark-brown shafts. Their tail is short and has yellow or orange feet with blackish claws.

Moreporks are handsome, small birds of the night that can turn their head 270 degrees.

How cute are they?

What’s not to love about these beautiful raptors who are cute with large round eyes, tiny beaks, and are so adorable when they twist their heads 270 degrees inquisitively.

How do they communicate?

The New Zealand Morepork is a nocturnal raptor. They utter a repetitive 'quork-quork' or 'ruru' to communicate with other owls over long distances at night. They also make sounds like 'cree-cree' when hunting, mewing, and rippling sounds during the breeding season.

How big is a Morepork?

Head to tail, the Morepork measures around 10-11.5 in (26-29 cm) long. The female bird is fairly larger than the male.

How high can a Morepork fly?

Moreporks are nocturnal and are known as silent predators of the night. They have specialized feathers with very soft fringes, which enable them to fly silently. They often fly about 160-330 ft (50-100 m) high from perch to perch during hunting until they sense a prey below.

How much does a Morepork weigh?

Female Morepork weighs 6-7.6 oz (170-216 g), whereas males weigh around 4.9-5.5 oz (140 - 156 g). Female birds are fairly heavier than males.

What are the male and female names of the species?

In general, male birds are classified as cocks and female birds as hens. Similarly, a female Morepork owl is called an owl hen, and a male is called an owl cock.

What would you call a baby Morepork?

In general, like any baby owl, a baby Morepork is called an owlet or fledgling.

What do they eat?

Moreporks prey on moths, large insects, weta, huhu beetles, caterpillars, spiders, grasshoppers, cicadas, and lizards. Their feet have sharp claws that take almost any suitably sized prey like small birds, rats, and mice.

Are they dangerous?

Moreporks are not dangerous but will generally feel threatened if humans come too close and exhibit certain aggressive behaviors. Sometimes they have been known to attack people while defending their territories and young ones.

Are they friendly to humans?

Moreporks are known to be solitary creatures and are rarely affectionate towards humans voluntarily. However, trained professionals had pet owls, but these owls rarely interact with others except their owners.

Did you know...

Moreporks eat their prey whole and cough up a pellet that contains all the bones and feathers.

The difference between an owl and a Morepork is owls are smaller, paler, and more gray-brown.

The Norfolk Island Morepork is an extinct subspecies of the Morepork. However, two captive males from New Zealand were released on Norfolk Island in 1987 to provide a mate for the last surviving female bird and produced several young owls.

In his famous fantasy novel series Discworld, Terry Pratchett features a fictional city-state called Ankh-Morpork.

Moreporks are monogamous birds that form a strong bonding with their mates.

How did the Morepork get its name?

Moreporks got their name from their distinctive calls. Early settlers in New Zealand heard the sound as 'more-pork' and thus gave them the name. The International Ornithological Committee has designated it the official name. Their call also sounded like 'ruru' to Maori people, so they got its Maori name, Ruru.

What does it mean when you hear a Morepork?

The Maori people of mainland New Zealand believe the Morepork owls are watchful guardians. Though they consider hearing the boobook call as a good sign, the high-pitched hoot was considered a warning of bad news.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds, from owl red owl fun facts for kids and tawny owl facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable morepork coloring pages.

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