Be Your Own Birder

Weekly Bird: Morepork

Whoooo can resist a bird with the name “morepork” (pronounced exactly as “more pork”)? What a fun and amazing bird, with far more that is intriguing about it than just its name!

Morepork

Morepork – Photo by Russell Chilton

Morepork Fun Facts
  • The morepork (Ninox novaeseelandiae) is also called the boobook, New Zealand owl, Tasmanian spotted owl, mopoke, or New Zealand boobook. Its Maori name is ruru, which comes from the bird’s haunting call, means “big eyes,” and is very descriptive of this curious owl.
  • The colors of this owl can vary significantly, with some birds showing a much warmer, reddish wash while others are paler and more grayish.
  • Though only 11 inches long from head to tail, this owl can be fierce and will capture prey as large as rats, though a more typical meal is insects, lizards, small birds, or the occasional bat.
  • The morepork is the only native owl found in New Zealand, as all the other endemic owls have gone extinct. Other owls found on the island nation today are introduced species.
  • Maori legends and culture honors the morepork as a wise and guiding bird, representing protection or serving as messengers who offer warnings or foretell important visitors. In some situations, moreporks were even seen as personal guardians.
  • Moreporks were occasionally hunted and eaten by the Maori, or given as preserved food gifts with the proper ritual and ceremony. These owls and their large, bright eyes are also believed to be the inspiration for many Maori carvings and artwork featuring large, piercing eyes.
  • The New Zealand morepork has been used in conservation efforts with the Norfolk Island boobook, another owl species, that was nearly extinct with only a single female remaining. A male morepork was offered as a potential mate, and the owls successfully bred, producing a new hybrid species and several offspring before the female eventually died.
  • Morepork is also the name of a New Zealand smart home security company (quite ingenious considering the bird’s excellent eyesight and senses), as well as an American-style barbecue restaurant in Auckland (an interesting play on the “more pork” phrasing for their pulled pork, pork belly, pork ribs, and other meats).
Adding the Morepork to Your Life List

These owls are widespread in New Zealand and relatively abundant in the proper habitat, but as with most owls, can be challenging to find because of their nocturnal preferences. Hiring an experienced owling guide is the best way to maximize your chance of seeing a morepork. These birds are more abundant and active in the fall, after the breeding season ends and juvenile birds are more noticeable. These are forest owls, so visiting the proper habitat is essential, and they will occasionally be drawn to nighttime light sources, such as streetlights at forest campgrounds, as they hunt for moths. Twilight hours in the late evening and early morning are also active hunting times and can be excellent opportunities for spotting moreporks.

Learn More About the Morepork

Discover more amazing information about the morepork with these excellent resources…

Morepork

Morepork – Photo by j.e.mcgowan

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