The tiny ruru, or morepork (Ninox novaeseelandiae) is native to Aotearoa, but not endemic (i.e. it is found here, but also found in other countries). On average, it measures about 29 cm and weighs 175g.
These nocturnal creatures mainly snack on insects, but can take out small birds, rats and mice. They are perfectly designed birds of prey, with heads that can swivel 270° and softly fringed wings to silence their flapping wings.
Phil says that ruru are susceptible to poisoning as they hunt poisoned dead rats and mice. However, he says, "My observations tell me that they bounce back quite quickly."
Rurus nest in cavity, making them easy prey for sneaky stoats and possums - but the birds are classified as not threatened.
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Aotearoa was also home to another species of owl, the larger laughing owl, which became extinct in the 20th century. We also have an introduced species of owl.
According to the Department of Conservation, ruru play an important role to Maori.
"In Maori tradition the morepork was seen as a watchful guardian. It belonged to the spirit world as it is a bird of the night. Although the more-pork or ruru call was thought to be a good sign, the high pitched, piercing, 'yelp' call was thought to be an ominous forewarning of bad news or events."
Watch this video of a minuscule baby ruru receiving some TLC from Wingspan Birds of Prey Trust in Rotorua.