The laughing owl or whekau was twice the height of a morepork – 38 centimetres from head to tail, with very long legs. It nested in bluffs and rock outcrops. Its calls were loud shrieks, soft cooees, or high-pitched yelps like a young dog, and it was sometimes called the laughing jackass. Its prey included kiwi and ducks. In the early 1800s the laughing owl was quite common in parts of the South Island, but it declined rapidly from the 1880s. The last confirmed report was of one found dead in South Canterbury in 1914, although informal reports continued up to the 1970s.
Using this item
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Permission of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa must be obtained before any re-use of this image.