The Southern Boobook has almost 20 alternative common names, mostly regional; of them mopoke is well-recognised; others include, for example, morepork, boobook, Tasmanian spotted owl, and Lord Howe boobook. In Maori it is called Ruru\.
It occurs in most habitats with trees, ranging from deep tropical forests to isolated stands at the edges of arid zones, farmland, or alpine grasslands, but is most common in temperate woodland. Southern Boobooks are usually seen singly, in pairs, or in small family groups of an adult pair and up to three young. They are mainly nocturnal, but are sometimes active at dawn and dusk and, in New Zealand, even during the day. The main hunting times are evenings and mornings, with brief bursts of activity through the night. On dark nights they often perch through the middle hours and, particularly if the weather is bad, may hunt by daylight instead.
Although their main hunting technique is perch and pounce, they are agile birds with a swift, goshawk-like wing action and the ability to manoeuvere rapidly when pursuing prey or hawking for insects. Almost any suitably sized prey is taken, particularly birds or small mammals and, in New Zealand, the Weta.