Leila Jeffreys 'Prey' series was exhibited at Purdy Hicks London and Olsen Gallery Sydney. Each large scale photograph features a portrait of bird of prey

'Yule' Barking Owl

'Yule' Barking Owl


©Leila Jeffreys 2014
Photograph on archival fibre based cotton rag paper
112 x 89 cm, 44 x 35 inch (standard)

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Yule the Barking Owl glided into the room with his characteristic “woof, woof”. He was particularly chatty and the conversation flowed freely, mainly him talking and me laughing.  As well as their barks, this owl has a famous call which apparently sounds like a human scream…  perhaps not the most relaxing sound to stumble across at night in the bush.

All the excitement wore Yule out and as I was taking his portrait he started to get sleepy. Being nocturnal meant that it really was his bedtime but I liked the fact he was so relaxed in my company.

Because they don’t have the characteristic heart-shaped face associated with the more common Barn Owl, Barking Owls belong to a group known as ‘hawk-owls’. Barking Owls are found across Australia but they are unable to survive in arid, treeless or heavily forested regions, instead preferring open woodlands. They only nest in an open hollow in a tree trunk which they make comfortable by lining it loosely with sticks and wood debris. Unfortunately their numbers are rapidly dwindling due to habitat loss as well as competition from introduced species such as honeybees for roost sites. They also compete with foxes and cats for food.

I have been reading about some of the recovery plans currently in place and I desperately hope they work so that we can continue to hear their wonderful barking call. Although someone might need to have a quiet word with them about keeping the screaming down.