…was a Ruru, or Morepork (Ninox novaeseelandiae).
It’s NZ’s only remaining native owl (the Laughing owl was last recorded in 1914), and is fairly common in many habitats, even parks and gardens, but is especially numerous in tracts of native bush. We heard them several places, mostly in the Kauri Forest while on a night walk looking for Kiwi. They whinny and whoo and screek, but their main call is, not surprisingly, “More-pore” repeated frequently. If you live where there are Inca Doves, you know what a Morepork sounds like. Inca doves’ call is usually transcribed as “whirl-pool” or “no-hope”, but in pitch, frequency, and tone, it’s very much like the owl’s call. The Māori name, Ruru, is also onomatopoetic, as is the Australian name, (Southern) Boobook.
Ruru is a relatively small (approx 10″ ht), long-tailed owl that takes a range of prey but specializes in nocturnal insects like weta (large crickets — really large crickets!), huhu beetles and moths.
(Photo by Aviceda from Wikimedia Commons)