Powerful Owls: gentle giants on the edge

For the last several months, I’ve kept a slightly uneasy vigil on a pair of breeding Powerful Owls in inner Brisbane, just a couple of kilometres from home. In that time they’ve seen off crowds of curious onlookers, and a determined eviction attempt by Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, to raise one confident and healthy-looking chick, which will remain dependent on them for several more months yet.

After that, it faces a much bigger challenge: finding and establishing its own territory and mate.

Powerful Owls have a lot going for them. They’re massive, charismatic birds and a perennial Guardian Australia Bird of the Year contender. They’ve proven resilient and relatively adaptable. Natural denizens of tall eucalypt forests in south-eastern Australia, they have changed their foraging habits and moved into the suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, where the pickings – especially hyper-abundant Ring-tailed Possums – are easy.

But they’re also on the edge. Although classed as secure federally, they’re listed as vulnerable in New South Wales and Queensland, and endangered in Victoria. As apex predators, they hold large territories and need big, old-growth trees with hollows about the size of a wheelie bin to breed in. For this diminishing resource, they compete with other species including cockatoos and Brush-tailed Possums, as well as with each other.Read more..