Golden Masked Owl

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Golden Masked Owl

Tyto aurantia

Last updated: February 15, 2021
Verified by: IMP
Image Credit Owen Derrick Photography/

While flying high above this owl can hear a mouse moving in the tall grass of field!

Golden Masked Owl Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Tyto aurantia

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Golden Masked Owl Conservation Status

Golden Masked Owl Locations

Golden Masked Owl Locations

Golden Masked Owl Facts

Rodents, insects, birds, rabbits
Name Of Young
Owlets, nestlings
Fun Fact
While flying high above this owl can hear a mouse moving in the tall grass of field!
Estimated Population Size
2,500-9,999 individuals
Biggest Threat
Habitat loss
Most Distinctive Feature
Heart-shaped, bright white face
Other Name(s)
Bismarck masked owl, New Britain barn owl, New Britain masked owl
Gestation Period
32 days
Litter Size
2-3 eggs
Lowland and coniferous forests
  • Nocturnal
  • Solitary
Common Name
Golden masked owl
Number Of Species
Tropical forest in New Britain, Papua New Guinea

Golden Masked Owl Physical Characteristics

  • Brown
  • White
  • Light-Brown
Skin Type
Top Speed
20 mph
4 years
0.9lbs – 1.7lbs
10.6in – 12.9in
Age of Sexual Maturity
1 year old

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View all of the Golden Masked Owl images!

“Golden masked owls have long legs and strong talons allowing them to scoop up rodents from the ground”

The golden masked owl is known for its whitish/yellow heart-shaped face and large dark eyes. This owl is a carnivore eating small rodents, birds, insects, rabbits, and sometimes other owls. The feathers on its wings are designed for moving silently through the air. These birds live in the tropical climate of the island New Britain, Papua New Guinea.

5 Incredible Golden Masked Owl Facts!

• This owl lives an average of 4 years in the wild

• It has 2 to 3 eggs per clutch

• This owl doesn’t hoot, it screeches

• It is a solitary bird

• It starts hunting for prey at dusk

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Golden Masked Owl Scientific Name

This owl’s scientific name is Tyto aurantia. The word Tyto is Greek meaning owl and the word aurantia is Latin for orange or tawny. This refers to the orangish feathers of the golden masked owl.

This bird is also called a Bismarck masked owl, a New Britain barn owl, or a New Britain masked owl. It belongs to the Tytonidae family and is in the Aves class. There are more than 16 species of owl in the Tytonidae family. Other owls in the Tytonidae family include the Australian masked owl, the Tasmanian masked owl and the Sulawesi masked owl.

Golden Masked Owl Appearance

This owl has orangish/brown feathers on its back and on the top of its head. Its face is heart-shaped with yellow and white feathers. The bill of this owl is flat, it has long legs and powerful talons. There are white feathers running down its chest. The two dark eyes on its heart-shaped face are constantly searching its surroundings.

This owl has no ear tufts on its head like other owls such as the Great Horned owl. A golden masked owl has ears hidden on the sides of its head. One ear is higher on its head than the other. Its left ear is able to hear sounds occurring on the ground below it while its right ear hears sounds in the air. This makes it easy to keep track of the sounds happening all around!

An adult golden masked owl can be from 10.6 to 12.9 inches tall. A 10-inch-tall golden masked owl is the same height as 2/3 of a bowling pin. Fully-grown this owl weighs from 0.9 to 1.7 pounds. As an example, an owl that weighs 1 pound is equal to the weight of two hamsters from the pet shop. Normally, female golden masked owls are larger than males. The masked owl is the largest of the owls in the Tyto genus.

The coloration of a golden masked owl’s feathers blends in with the branches in its forest habitat. This is one of its main defenses against predators. Plus, the design of the feathers on its wings allows it to fly silently. Its wings have serrated edges or edges that look like the teeth of a comb. This design breaks up the air flowing over its wings and creates silent flight. As a bonus, this little owl can fly at speeds up to 20mph!

Golden Masked Owl Behavior

Normally, the New Britain barn owl is a solitary animal, but it sometimes pairs with another owl. During breeding season, owls may gather in a group of seven or more. This group is called a parliament. They are shy creatures that like to stay hidden in their habitat.

It’s a myth that owls can turn their heads all the way around. All the way around would be 360 degrees. Owls, including the golden masked owl, have extra vertebrae in their neck allowing them to turn their head 270 degrees. An owl’s eyes are fixed in place, so the ability to turn their head 270 degrees helps them take in their surroundings.

Golden Masked Owl Habitat

This owl lives on the island of New Britain, Papua New Guinea. This is an island near the continent of Australia. These owls live in a tropical climate in lowland and coniferous forests. This owl lives near the equator and doesn’t migrate.

Golden Masked Owl Diet

What do golden masked owls eat? This bird is a carnivore. Its diet mostly consists of rodents. But it also eats birds, insects, rabbits, amphibians, bandicoots and smaller owls. This owl may eat as many as four small rodents per night.

Like most owls, the golden masked owl has excellent hearing. It can hear the rustle of a small rodent in a field or on the forest floor. Its wings are silent when it flies allowing it to sneak up on its prey to capture it.

Golden Masked Owl Predators and Threats

Eagles, hawks, and other owls are all predators of these owls. Many of these predators are bigger and stronger than this owl making it vulnerable to attacks.

Loss of habitat due to deforestation is another threat to this owl. These owls make their nests in hollow trees.

The conservation status of this owl is: Vulnerable. Its population is thought to be decreasing. This is unfortunate because the golden masked owl plays an important part in the ecosystem. It help to control the rodent population and serves as food for bigger birds.

Golden Masked Owl Reproduction and Lifestyle

The breeding season of this owl lasts throughout the year. These owls stay with the same mate year after year. In other words, they are monogamous. The pair make a nest on soft mulch inside a hollow tree. Making a nest in a hollow tree helps to provide protection for the young. The female lays 2 to 3 eggs and sits on them while the male goes out to hunt for food to feed the female. The gestation period is 32 days.

Baby owls are called owlets or nestlings. Owlets weigh a little less than one ounce. They are born blind and without feathers, but quickly begin to grow a fine, pure white layer of down. Their eyes open at around 10 days old. As they grow, their feathers start to take on the orange/tawny, white and yellow coloration of adult golden masked owls. Their mother brings them small rodents and other prey that she breaks in pieces for her owlets to swallow. After these owlets have all of their feathers, they continue to be fed by their mother and father owl for about a month longer. Then, they are pushed out of the nest to live independently. They are with their parents about 80 days total.

These owls have an average lifespan of 4 years. They are vulnerable to Psittacosis, a common respiratory illness.

Golden Masked Owl Population

There are an estimated 2,500 to 9,999 individual golden masked owls in Papua New Guinea. These owls stay in hiding making it challenging to determine an exact population number. Their conservation status is Vulnerable, and this owl’s population is thought to be decreasing.

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About the Author

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Golden Masked Owl FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are Golden Masked Owls herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?

Golden Masked Owls are Carnivores, meaning they eat other animals.

What Kingdom do Golden Masked Owls belong to?

Golden Masked Owls belong to the Kingdom Animalia.

How do Golden Masked Owls have babies?

Golden Masked Owls lay eggs.

  1. Animal Diversity Web, Available here:
  2. Barn-Owls & Allies, Available here:
  3. Beauty of Birds, Available here:

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