Ninox novaeseelandiae

Physical Description

The Ruru, or Morepork, is a small to medium-sized owl species endemic to New Zealand. It has a compact and stocky body with mottled brown or grey-brown plumage, providing excellent camouflage against tree trunks and branches. They have large round heads, distinctive facial disks, and yellow or golden eyes. Moreporks have sharp, hooked beaks and strong talons for capturing prey.

Habitat and Range

Moreporks are found throughout New Zealand, including the North and South Islands and several offshore islands. They inhabit a range of forested habitats, including native forests, exotic plantations, rural areas, and even urban parks and gardens. Moreporks are adaptable and can be found in various wooded environments, provided suitable roosting and foraging opportunities are available.

Feeding Habits

The Morepork is a nocturnal bird and a skilled hunter. They primarily feed on a diet of small mammals, birds, insects, and invertebrates. Their main prey includes mice, rats, small birds, large insects, and even small reptiles. Moreporks use their excellent hearing and vision to locate and capture prey, swooping down silently from perches to snatch their victims.

Breeding and Nesting

Ruru are monogamous and typically mate for life. They nest in tree cavities, hollows, or even abandoned nests of other bird species. The female lays a clutch of 2 to 3 eggs, which both parents incubate for around a month. After hatching, the chicks are cared for by both parents, and they remain in the nest for several weeks until they are ready to fledge.

Conservation Status

The Morepork is not currently considered a threatened species. They have adapted well to a range of habitats and are relatively common throughout their range. However, like many native bird species, they may still face some threats, including habitat loss, predation by introduced mammals, and collisions with vehicles at night. Conservation efforts focus on preserving their natural habitats and controlling introduced predators.

Tree and Plant Preferences

Moreporks are not strongly associated with specific tree or plant preferences. They are adaptable and can be found in a variety of forested habitats. They use trees for roosting during the day, selecting hollows or cavities for shelter. Moreporks are known to vocalise from prominent perches, such as tree branches, fence posts, or powerlines, to announce their presence and territory.

Interesting Facts

  • The Morepork gets its common name, "Morepork," from its distinctive vocalisation, which sounds like the phrase "more-pork" repeated several times.
  • They are known for their excellent night vision and acute hearing, allowing them to navigate and hunt in low-light conditions.
  • Moreporks are important in Māori mythology and folklore, often associated with spiritual guardianship and foretelling of events.
  • They are efficient hunters and play a role in controlling populations of rodents and insects, benefiting ecosystems and agricultural areas.
  • The Morepork is a secretive bird, often heard more frequently than seen, making their haunting call a familiar sound in New Zealand forests at night.