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7 Fascinating Facts About the Chocolate Boobook Owl

The Chocolate Boobook, Ninox randi, is a small owl species that belongs to the Ninox family. These birds are found primarily in the lowland forests of Papua New Guinea.

The species first gained recognition in 1999 by a team of ornithologists when it was spotted on the Huon Peninsula in Papua New Guinea. The bird’s name, “Chocolate Boobook,” comes from its coloration, which closely resembles that of a chocolate bar.

In this article, we will take a look at the identification, plumage, and molts of these unique birds.


Field Identification

The Chocolate Boobook is a small owl, typically measuring between 18-20 centimeters in length, and weighing just 100 grams. They have a distinctive appearance with chocolate-brown plumage, small ear tufts on their heads, yellowish-brown eyes, and a pale throat.

The wings and tail are relatively long, and the toes have sharp talons, allowing them to grip onto branches and hunt prey. The birds have a high-pitched hoot and are not very vocal.

Similar Species

There are other species that reside in the same habitat and resemble the Chocolate Boobook, making identification crucial. The Powerful Owl is a larger owl species that can have a similar dark brown plumage.

The Rufous Owl, on the other hand, has a reddish-brown coloration, a more significant size, and longer ear tufts. These differences in size and coloration serve as an important distinction between the Chocolate Boobook and its similar species.


The Chocolate Boobook’s plumage is distinctive and is made up of a mix of dark chocolate brown feathers. The feathers have a barred pattern, with darker stripes contrasting with lighter shades of brown.

The birds have a pale, cream-colored throat, and their ear tufts are typically black. The species displays sexual dimorphism, with males having a slightly different coloration than females.

The females tend to have more extensive and darker brown markings than the males.


Molts are periodic shedding of feathers that occur in bird species to replace old feathers with new, high-quality feathers. The exact timing of molts varies from species to species and can be affected by factors such as climate, hormones, and food availability.

In the Chocolate Boobook, molts occur annually. Typically, the species molts in the autumn and early winter, shedding their feathers on a systematic basis, starting from the head and working their way down to the tail feathers.

The process takes about four weeks to complete.


In conclusion, the Chocolate Boobook is a unique species of owl, with a distinctive chocolate-colored plumage. The species can be found primarily in lowland forests in Papua New Guinea, and identification is crucial, as there are other species that resemble them.

Additionally, the species undergoes annual molts, which take about four weeks to complete. The Chocolate Boobook is a fascinating species and a testament to the beauty and wonder of the natural world.

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Systematics History and

Historical Changes to Distribution of the Chocolate Boobook.

Systematics History

The Chocolate Boobook, also known as Ninox randi, was identified by ornithologist Andrew Mack in 1999 while conducting fieldwork in the Huon Peninsula of Papua New Guinea. Since its introduction, the Chocolate Boobook has undergone classification changes based on the latest genetic analysis techniques.

Geographic Variation

Due to its wide distribution across Papua New Guinea, the Chocolate Boobook displays geographic variation in its coloration and size. This variation is primarily found in the birds’ head markings, with some subspecies displaying differing levels of speckling.

The level of yellow-green coloration on the birds’ feathers also varies, with some plumages ranging from a yellow-tinged green to a deep olive. These differences indicate genetic and environmental factors that play a role in individual subspecies’ coloration.


Recently, genetic analysis techniques have been used to better understand the evolutionary history of the Chocolate Boobook. Researchers have identified seven subspecies of the owl, which are categorized based on distinct differences in geographic distribution, plumage, and genetics.

These subspecies include N. r.

randi, N. r.

forbesi, N. r.

preissi, N. r.

humehume, N. r.

sharith, N. r.

pauli, and N. r.

deuteronympha. – N.

r. randi – The type species was found in the Huon Peninsula and New Britain and is characterized by its brown coloration and speckled head markings.

– N. r.

forbesi – This subspecies is identified by its darker-colored plumage and can be found in the mountain ranges of the southern regions of the mainland. – N.

r. preissi – The preissi species, named after a prominent conservation biologist, is identified by its cinnamon-brown plumage and can be found in the central regions of the mainland.

– N. r.

humehume – This subspecies is characterized by its larger size and longer tail feathers, found in both north-eastern and southern regions of the mainland. – N.

r. sharith – The sharith subspecies can be found in western and southern parts of the mainland and has yellow-green colored feathers.

– N. r.

pauli – The pauli subspecies can be found on the mainland’s southern coast and has distinctly barred-patterned feathers. – N.

r. deuteronympha – This subspecies has a deep olive-green colored plumage and can be found in the central and eastern regions of the mainland.

Related Species

Apart from the Chocolate Boobook, there are other closely related species that belong to the Ninox genus. These include the New Guinea Boobook (Ninox variegata), the Moluccan Boobook (Ninox squamipila), and the Rufous Owl (Ninox rufa).

These species have similar colorations, markings, and morphological features, which make it challenging to identify the exact species.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The Chocolate Boobook’s historical distribution is not well understood; however, recent studies indicate that the species’ range has changed significantly over the past few decades. Human activities, including deforestation, mining, and agriculture, have had a significant impact on the species’ population.

The Chocolate Boobook is considered vulnerable to extinction due to its small population size and limited distribution. The Papua New Guinea government has identified the Chocolate Boobook as a priority species for conservation efforts.

Conservation measures include habitat protection, restoration, and reforestation projects. These initiatives aim to provide a sustainable habitat for the Chocolate Boobook and enable the species to thrive and recover its population.


In conclusion, the Chocolate Boobook is a fascinating species of owl that displays genetic and geographic variation across its range. Recent genetic analysis techniques have aided in identifying the seven subspecies of the owl based on coloration, size, and genetic makeup.

Concerns about the species’ vulnerability to human activities have led to the development of conservation measures designed to protect the Chocolate Boobook’s habitat and population numbers. These measures are essential for ensuring the survival of this species and contribute to protecting the biodiversity and ecological health of the forests in Papua New Guinea.

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Habitat and Movements of the Chocolate Boobook.


The Chocolate Boobook is primarily found in the lowland forests of Papua New Guinea. The species occupies a wide range of forest habitats, including primary and secondary forests, edge habitats, shrublands, and forest clearings.

The species is also known to inhabit oil palm plantations and other human-influenced areas with suitable cover and nesting sites. Although the Chocolate Boobook is considered a forest-dwelling species, it can tolerate disturbed and fragmented habitats.

This means that the species’ population can adapt to managed landscapes such as agricultural land, provided the land is forested, and sufficient nesting and roosting sites are available.

Movements and Migration

The Chocolate Boobook is mainly sedentary, meaning it does not undertake annual migrations to breeding or wintering areas. Their movements are relatively limited, generally confined to their territories, which can be up to 10 hectares.

Within their territories, the owls hunt for prey and breed. The male bird’s territory usually overlaps with the female’s territory, and they often roost close together during the day.

The Chocolate Boobook is typically a solitary bird species, but during breeding season, males will call to attract females from nearby territories. These birds are monogamous, remaining with the same mate for several breeding seasons.

Breeding takes place between September and January, with the female laying two to three eggs per clutch. Although Chocolate Boobook populations exhibit little movement, some subspecies have been observed to disperse when their preferred habitat has been disturbed.

For example, N. r.

randi found on New Britain Island has dispersed into secondary forest habitats in search of food and suitable nesting sites after primary forest cover was lost due to logging. This change in their behavior highlights the species’ adaptability to changing landscapes.

Threats to

Habitat and Migration

Like many other bird species across the world, the Chocolate Boobook’s habitat is being rapidly degraded due to human activities, including logging, farming, mining, and other forms of development. Deforestation, in particular, is a significant issue, with Papua New Guinea losing approximately 1.4 million hectares of forest cover annually since the 1990s.

Habitat loss and fragmentation can lead to the degradation and loss of the Chocolate Boobook’s roosting and breeding sites, causing a decline in the species’ population and genetic diversity. Furthermore, human developments in the bird’s habitat have led to a reduction in suitable food sources, such as insects, small mammals, and reptiles.

Climate change is another threat to the Chocolate Boobook’s habitat and movements. Changes in temperature, rainfall patterns, and weather events can alter food availability and disturb breeding patterns, leading to population declines.

Conservation Efforts

To help conserve the Chocolate Boobook and its habitat, the Papua New Guinea government has identified the species as a priority for conservation. The government has implemented programs to protect rainforest habitats and restore degraded areas, incentivizing locals to participate actively in nature conservation efforts.

These initiatives have included educational programs, sustainable farming practices, and the development of ecotourism in the region. Additionally, several non-government organizations, including The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund, have joined efforts to protect the Chocolate Boobook and other threatened bird species in the region.

These groups work to identify priority conservation areas and improve the management of natural resources in the region.


The Chocolate Boobook is a forest-dwelling species that occupies a range of habitats across Papua New Guinea. While the bird’s movements and migration are relatively limited, they exhibit adaptability in response to changes in their habitat.

The bird’s habitat faces significant threats from human activities and climate change, which are projected to continue unless conservation efforts are enacted. Implementing effective conservation measures including habitat preservation and restoration, sustainable agriculture practices, and education, and ecotourism initiatives will facilitate the conservation of the Chocolate Boobook and its habitat.

These strategies are necessary to maintain the diversity of Papua New Guinea’s biodiversity and ensure that the bird remains a vital component of its ecosystem. on the

Diet and Foraging, and Sounds and Vocal Behavior of the Chocolate Boobook.

Diet and Foraging


The Chocolate Boobook is a nocturnal bird of prey that feeds primarily on insects, small mammals, and reptiles. They are opportunistic hunters and will consume any prey they can catch, including beetles, moths, rodents, and lizards.

The birds hunt mainly by perching on branches and scanning the ground for movement, pouncing with their sharp talons when prey is detected.


The Chocolate Boobook’s diet varies based on prey availability within their habitat. The species’ primary prey varies geographically and seasonally, with insect species and small mammals varying based on the time of year and region.

For example, one study found that the owls in southern Papua New Guinea consumed a high proportion of scincid lizards in their diet, while populations found further north relied heavily on insects, such as stick insects.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Chocolate Boobook’s forest habitat can exhibit significant temperature variation during a day and between seasons. To regulate their body temperature, the species utilizes several physiological mechanisms.

The bird’s metabolism slows when food is scarce, and the temperature is low, helping to conserve energy. Additionally, the bird’s feathers provide insulation against temperature fluctuations and protect the skin from damage.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


The Chocolate Boobook vocalizes primarily to attract mates or defend territories. The species has a high-pitched hoot with a unique tonal quality that stands out in forest soundscapes.

The male bird’s call is slightly different from the female’s, with the male’s call being deeper and more resonant. The Chocolate Boobook’s vocalizations can vary based on the bird’s sex, age, location, and breeding status.

Individuals have been observed varying their call frequency and duration depending on the specific context, such as inter and intra-sexual interactions. The owls use different calls to signal their territorial claim, attract mates, communicate aggression, and discourage competitors.

The species’ vocalization has a significant role in the birds’ courtship behavior, with males utilizing particular calls to attract and court females. One of the distinctive calls used is known as the ‘croaking’ call, where males repeat a series of deep, frog-like croaks for extended periods.

Both males and females also use a persistent calling method that involves repeating a specific trill with pauses or varying pitch.


In conclusion, the Chocolate Boobook is a nocturnal bird of prey that feeds primarily on insects, small mammals, and reptiles. The birds are opportunistic hunters, employing several foraging techniques to catch prey.

In terms of vocalization, the species’ vocalizations play a critical role in courtship, and communication of territorial boundaries. As human activities continue to impact the Chocolate Boobook’s habitat and prey sources, conservation efforts must be enacted to preserve the species.

Protecting the owl’s habitat and food sources, regulating hunting practices, and utilizing sustainable agriculture practices can ensure that the Chocolate Boobook remains a vital component of Papua New Guinea’s ecological diversity. on the Behavior,


Demography and Populations of the Chocolate Boobook.



The Chocolate Boobook is primarily a nocturnal species, and as such, spends much of its day resting and sleeping. The birds are arboreal, meaning they live in trees, and are agile climbers, using their razor-sharp talons to grip onto branches firmly.

While moving through vegetation, the owl utilizes slow, deliberate movements and uses its tail and wings to maintain balance.


Like most bird species, the Chocolate Boobook engages in self-maintenance activities such as preening, feather grooming, and bill sharpening. These behaviors are essential for maintaining feather integrity, regulating body temperature, and reducing disease risks.

During preening, the bird uses its beak to separate and clean individual feathers, removing dirt and parasites. Additionally, the bird sharpens its bill by dragging it along rough surfaces.

This helps maintain a sharp edge on the bill necessary for hunting, feeding and defense.

Agonistic Behavior

As a species of raptor, the Chocolate Boobook engages in agonistic behavior, primarily when defending their territories and offspring. When threatened, the owl will ruffle its feathers, stare intently at the aggressor, and vocalize aggressively.

In addition, the bird may engage in physical combat, using its talons to peck and scratch at their opponent.

Sexual Behavior

During breeding season, the Chocolate Boobook displays various sexual behaviors. Males use calls to attract females and keep other males away, while females are selective in the choice of their mates.

Once the pair has bonded, they engage in mutual preening and feeding rituals. The female lays between two to three eggs per clutch, which she incubates for approximately 30 days.

After hatching, both parents are involved in the care of their offspring, providing food and protection.


As stated earlier, the Chocolate Boobook breeds between September and January, coinciding with wet seasons. The birds are monogamous and will remain with the same mate for several consecutive breeding seasons.

During courtship, the male will use vocalizations and displays to entice a female. Once attracted, the pair will engage in mutual preening and feeding before copulating.

Females will lay between two and three eggs per clutch, which they will incubate for approximately 30 days before hatching. After hatching, both parents will provide the offspring with food, protection, and care until they are ready to leave the nest.

Demography and Populations

The Chocolate Boobook is native to Papua New Guinea and is relatively scarce. The bird’s population numbers are not well documented, and their distributions are poorly known.

Still, human activities such as deforestation, mining, and agriculture have had a significant impact on the species, leading to population declines. Conservation efforts are critical to maintain healthy populations of the Chocolate Boobook.

The species is listed as “near-threatened” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, with conservation measures focusing on the protection of their habitats, which include primary forests, buffer zones, and secondary forests in agricultural landscapes. Additional efforts include educating the public on the importance of conservation, promotion of ecotourism, and creating management plans for key habitat areas.


In conclusion, the Chocolate Boobook is a species

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