The ruru belongs to the hawk-owl family and there are about thirty related species found in Asia and Australasia. This small, dark brown, native owl has large yellow eyes set in what looks like a face mask. It has flecked breast feathers, a short tail and a sharply hooked beak. Its legs are covered in feathers. It has yellow feet with sharp talons for catching prey. Owls are the only bird with flat faces and front-facing eyes which means they can keep their eyes on something.
An owl swallows everything, skin, meat and bones, fur, feathers and even teeth. Some of this is impossible to digest. In the gizzard the stomach juices dissolve as much as possible. Once a day the owl’s stomach muscles squeeze all the liquid goodness from the gizzard into the intestines. The owl then spits out a lump of undigestable leftovers. This is called a pellet. Other birds also produce pellets but the owl’s pellet is tighter and less moist. Scientists examine pellets to find out what sort of things the bird has eaten and to learn more about their diets.
Owls have lopsided ears. One is further forward and one higher than the other. When the sound of their prey is as loud as possible in both ears, they can judge the direction. Because their ears are crooked, the sound reaches one ear a split second before it reaches the other. That difference means their brains can calculate the exact distance. In total darkness they can catch prey by hearing alone.
They are nocturnal which means they are night birds. If one is nearby you might hear it in the evening calling ‘more-pork mopork’. Often you can hear two or more birds calling to each other.
They can fly silently between trees and can often be seen hunting moths and other insects attracted by a street light. They eat large insects, moths, cicadas, weta, spiders, mice, small rats and small birds.
The female looks after the eggs and she lays 2 or 3 white eggs. In the wild ruru live about six years but in captivity they can reach ten years of age.
The Northern Advocate reported the sighting of a rate white ruru in Pukenui Forrest in Oct 2015. This is an example of leucism where the bird lacks the pigment which gives colour to its feathers.
- Radio NZ Bird Watching – Ruru
- The Northern Advocate white ruru report
- DOC ruru page
- Wingspan Ruru in Maori Mythology page
- Wildscreen Arkive morepork page
- Oiseaux-birds morepork page