Bird of the Month – December 2016
By Jo Halley
Ruru “Morepork” Ninox novaeseelandiae
Ruru is our only remaining native owl. Its call is an iconic sound in the New Zealand night-time, “more-pork, more-pork”. Luckily the ruru has adapted reasonably well to human impact on our landscape, and can be found in gardens in suburbia, as well as in forests.
Moreporks are a small owl, only 30cm long, and with a 70cm wingspan. They are a pretty tawny brown, some are quite dark, others lighter; with flecks and bars on their feathers, and bright yellow eyes. In the daytime they roost in thick forest or scrub, and I sometimes disturb them as I make my way amongst the Paparoa forests.
Nesting takes place in hollow trees or burrows in October and November. The female incubates the 2 or 3 eggs on her own, but is fed by her mate at this time. The pair keep a territory year round, and families stay together some weeks after the chicks have fledged.
Ruru feed mostly on insects, especially weta, and also small animals and birds, which they spot in the dark with their huge eyes, and swoop on with silent wings.
Other common ruru calls are a shrill, loud “cree cree cree” and a “warm-up” low-pitched “graw graw graw graw graw”. They are commonly heard at night in the Croesus Hut area, and are regulars at the kiwi crèche, where in the absence of predators, there are plenty of insects and mice.