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August 13, 2019

Meet the Powerful Owl for Science Week

It’s National Science Week, so what better time to showcase some of the science-based research being led out of Deakin University?

PhD Candidate Nick Bradsworth – along with Associate Professors Raylene Cooke and John White – studies Australia’s largest owl, the aptly named Powerful Owl, which is also a listed threatened species.

Powerful Owls side by side

Photo by Nick Bradsworth

Be careful not to confuse the Powerful Owl with the more common Tawny Frogmouths (which are not owls), or Southern Boobooks in Melbourne! Powerful Owls are unmistakably large at 65cm tall, and have large yellow beady eyes and bone-crushing talons that are typically used to catch Common Ringtail and Common Brushtail possums at night. They are dark brown on the back, wings and tail, but their belly is mixed white and brown.

The owl lives in forested and treed environments in eastern Australia, but also in the cities of Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne (where this research is based). Because they live in urban environments, it is important to understand which parts of the landscape they need to forage, roost and nest in so that land management practices and urban planning will incorporate Powerful Owl requirements.

The Powerful Owls are apex predators, meaning they can help control overabundant species, and in turn, contribute to increased biodiversity.

The research team uses lightweight GPS tracking devices to study their movements. They have found that these owls pass quickly over infrastructure, housing and roads, while spend the majority of their time in treed parts of the landscape. These locations are typically along riparian and river systems which have large old tree hollows to nest in, dense-canopy trees to roost in during the daytime and lots of prey.

Want to get involved in protecting this important species of owl? You can help to contribute to this research by maintaining large old trees in backyards, and by reporting any sightings of Powerful Owls to: [email protected].

Further information about this project can be found in the following locations:

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