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Today I took a look at something quite unexpected, ‘Angus’ the Rufous Owl had laid an egg. No, he hadn’t defied the odds and become the first male to take on the hatching role. He, we discovered, is actually a she, and has now been renamed ‘Agnes’.

Angus is a very much loved member of the Taronga family and has delighted visitors at the Taronga QBE Free Flight Bird Show for many years. This stunning bird with soft blue feathers around its eyes came to the Zoo as a chick in 2003 but it’s really hard to tell the boys from the girls. Sometimes you have to do a surgical procedure to tell them apart. There wasn’t ever a reason for us to know if the Rufous Owl was male or female, so rather than doing an unnecessary procedure we dubbed it ‘Angus’ and as is human nature, it was referred to as a male for the last eight years.

Recently Angus started to get picked on by the local magpies and crows whilst he was trying to show off his skills in the Bird Show, so he made the move into our Nocturnal House for a quieter life as he entered middle age.


Paul our Nocturnal House keeper wanted to make Angus feel as comfortable as possible and built a tropical home for him and spent lots of time talking and chatting to the Rufous Owl. Angus immediately struck up a rapport with Paul and would chatter back, watch him as he went about his work, allowed Paul to stroke the feathers on his head (something he would never have tolerated previously) and seemed to be quite enamoured with his new keeper.

Turns out Angus decided that for all intents and purposes Paul was his ‘mate’, his replacement bird partner and laid an egg.  Paul tells the remarkable story of how Angus was sitting in the exhibit, proud as punch trying to direct Paul to the corner where the egg was sitting. Paul initially thought one of the other keepers was playing a joke on him, so didn’t get too excited until it was confirmed to be the real deal.

So, Agnes, apologies you have had a boy’s moniker for the last few years, but just goes to show our animals delight and continue to amaze and teach us things on a daily basis!

- Danielle, Zoo Communications

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