Vulnerable Powerful Owl

September 30, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

Urban Bushland in BrisbaneUrban Bushland in BrisbaneCommon bushland reserves and conservation parks in Brisbane. Many people use these areas for recreational activities such as walking, cycling or jogging.


Powerful Owl - Ninox strenua

In 2018, I was told that there was a pair of breeding powerful owl in nearby bushland. After hearing that and receiving further rumours of their presence, I made myself the challenge of finding this elusive creature. The area in question is about 35 ha large with many areas heavily overgrown.

The task to find a nocturnal bird which loves to roost by day, perched in the dense shade of a tree, is quite difficult.
After months of scouting through the thick undergrowth in the close-by bushland corridor, I narrowed my search to a small area amongst some old habitat trees close to a waterway. Further searches and observations brought nothing. It looked as if the owls decided to roost and breed somewhere else.

I was determined to find out more about these wonderful owls and decided to join a volunteering group which monitors the powerful owls in South East Queensland. Since I have joined, I have scouted more bushland with little trace of the birds. It seems like they like to play hide and seek. On my surveys, which are under strict conditions, I have been following hints of the existence in certain areas.

Urban BushUrban BushUrban bushland you can find around Brisbane. When you go into these places and follow small tracks other people have left behind you come to some amazing places. In these areas, I have come across many animals big and small.

It is a game of persistence, you search in suitable bushland looking for clues. I went out to the same areas time after time. Listening to find out if there are any signs of an owl. Nothing. 

After weeks of little evidence of owls, I received a tip about owls in a bushland area on the south side of Brisbane. I went out on a Sunday afternoon with both of my daughters. We didn’t have long to search for it. In a nearby tree was an owl sitting faced away from where we came from. We decided to walk around the bird and approach from the other side of a gully. Between the Powerful Owl and us was about 50m of gully and shrubbery. The owl wasn’t interested in us. As soon as we settled into our observation point it drifted back to sleep. Once or twice it opened its eyes wide and stared at something out of our sight.

That afternoon was the day I could show my daughters a beautiful and vulnerable bird, the largest Australian owl living here in Brisbane. It was with the help of people trying to understand more about this beautiful creature who allowed me to do so. If this encounter has left an unforgettable memory in my daughter's lives, then it was worth it.

Powerful Owl - Ninox strenua StrigidaePowerful Owl - Ninox strenua StrigidaeThe largest of Australia's owls, the Powerful Owl usually inhabits the moist forests of eastern Australia. Its main item of prey is possums of various species, though large bats such as flying foxes are also often caught. They roost by day, perched in the dense shade of a tree, often with the previous night's prey held in its talons; this is when Powerful Owls are seen most often. With expanding populations of possums occurring in built-up areas, Powerful Owls are increasingly being recorded in the suburbs. (Text Source: BirdLife Australia)

Conservation Status:

Powerful Owls are considered vulnerable here in Queensland. The loss of habitat through development is a big reason why these beautiful birds are on the decline. Powerful owls need big old habitat trees with hollows to breed. Unfortunately, with land clearing, those habitats are getting cleared too and with them, old trees. The owls have adapted and have learned to live in fragmented habitats in suburbs but that brings other threads with it. In fragmented habitats, the chance that owls are secondarily poisoned from eating prey that has eaten bait is very real. 

Description:

The largest of Australia’s owls, the Powerful Owl usually inhabits the moist forests of eastern Australia. Its main item of prey is possums of various species, though large bats such as flying foxes are also often caught. They roost by day, perched in the dense shade of a tree, often with the previous night’s prey held in its talons; this is when Powerful Owls are seen most often. With expanding populations of possums occurring in built-up areas, Powerful Owls are increasingly being recorded in the suburbs. (Text Source: BirdLife Australia)

This blog post is endorsed by BirdLife Queensland's Powerful Owl Project. I would like to thank Dr Rob Clemens for his ongoing efforts to study these owls and contributing to their protection. If you are interested in finding out more about BirdLife Australia visit their website at http://birdlife.org.au


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