Have you heard strange noises in the night? Well, they may not be what you think. The large Powerful Owl might just be active in your backyard.

Powerful Owls are an important top predator and are listed as Vulnerable in Queensland. Powerful Owls require plenty of food in their territories as well as large tree hollows for breeding. It is thought that a reduction in large tree hollows is one of the main factors in Powerful Owl population declines.

Powerful Owls have vast home ranges and depend on large tree hollows as breeding sites. These large hollows take hundreds of years to form and are indispensable to Powerful Owls, which, so far, have never successfully used nest boxes. Photo by Richard Jackson.
Powerful Owls roost during the day in shady, protected areas along gullies, waterways or underneath the canopy of large, dense trees. Photo by Deborah Metters.

BirdLife Southern Queensland is hoping to uncover how many owl pairs are breeding in the South East Queensland (SEQ) region, and what factors are related to Powerful Owls raising young successfully. BirdLife has recently started giving public workshops to teach people about owls and will be formally surveying them too.

The Powerful Owl breeding season begins in late March and extends through September. People may start hearing owls calling in March and April and they might hear them again in August or September when the calls of young owlets begging for dinner may fill the night air.

Hollows that are suitable for large owls often have smoothed edges so the adult owls and their juveniles can perch on the edge of the nest. Photo by Richard Jackson,

Birdlife Australia’s Powerful Owl Project is a citizen science project working to protect these birds in urban environments, and would love to hear about any bird sightings: just enter your sightings here https://birdata.birdlife.org.au

Early in 2018 in the Logan and Brisbane regions, BirdLife will be holding workshops on owls and providing training for volunteers interested in either surveying for owls or actively monitoring a pair of Powerful Owls throughout the breeding season.

If getting involved in helping conserve one of our most majestic birds is of interest, or you just want updates on the project please contact Dr Rob Clemens at [email protected].

This project is modelled after the highly successful Powerful Owl program in Sydney: visit https://birdlife.org.au/projects/urban-birds/powerful-owl-project-pow to learn more. In other regions, the Powerful Owl project has proven to be one that effectively monitors this threatened species and delivers concrete management recommendations to help ensure the persistence of these owls in and around large urban centres. Here in SEQ, we are looking forward to rolling out this project.

This project is proudly supported by Logan City Council and Brisbane City Council.

Article by Rob Clemens
BirdLife Southern Queensland


12 responses on “Powerful Owls

  1. Yesterday 8 March 2020, notice a strange bird in a tree bordering our yard on Macleay Island., taking a photos and looking on google I think it could be a Powerful Owl. I have only lived on the Island for approx 5 months. We have many different birds in our yard but have seen this one. I live near a wetland.

    1. Hi Rhonda. Nice sighting. If you ever need a bird photograph identified, there is a great Facebook page called ABID (Australian Bird Identification) which anyone can post to and have a bird photo identified.

  2. Saw a Powerful Owl standing like a statue on the foothpath outside the shops in the middle of Ipswich CBD (Brisbane Street) at 4:30am on the 23/6/20. Wasn’t sure what it was at first as it was the size of a small dog. Stopped my car and got out to investigate. The owl was standing on one leg so I wasn’t sure if it was injured but when I got with about a metre, it flew up into a nearby tree. It looked extremely healthy

  3. Hi Land for Wildlife members, Do you have any specific dimensions/drawings so I can make a nesting box for a Powerful Owl?
    Are you able to help me with this please?

    1. Hi Richard. Powerful Owls have been known to use a nest box only once. Here is a description of that box via https://www.birdsinbackyards.net/forum/Nestbox-Powerful-Owl

      Source: AUSTRALIAN Field Ornithology 2011, 28, 65–75, A Powerful Owl Disperses into Town and Uses an Artificial Nest-box, by ED McNABB and JIM GREENWOOD

      Nest boxes were attached 15-20m above the ground using trace springs and chain. Description of the box as follows:
      “Artificial nest-boxes with floor dimensions of 550 × 550 mm were constructed from 12-mm exterior plywood, with blocks of framing pine placed internally at the corners and midway along the sides, with galvanised screws attaching the sheets of plywood to the blocks. Each back wall was 800 mm high, and the front wall was 700 mm high to provide runoff. The oversized sloping lid was connected with a piano hinge. A 200-mm-wide hole was cut in the top of the front, and two perches were fitted. Hoop iron was used to brace the boxes and prevent sag (as shown in Plate 19). The removable bases were gently convex to allow for drainage. This was achieved with 30-mm-diameter hardwood dowel spanning the base, and a wooden wedge jammed between the base and the dowel to secure the base and create a slight doming (Plate 20). Inner surfaces were all left unpainted, with the exception of the floor, which was oiled with decking oil to prevent bacterial and fungal decay. A ladder of plastic lattice was installed inside below the entrance-hole, and this in combination with the framing pine and added blocks of wood allowed easy egress (Plate 21). Even with these aids, however, several noisy attempts were required for both adult and juvenile Owls to reach the entrance-hole”

  4. Just found a Powerful Owl dead on my property in Bellbowrie. The only evident physical trauma is a large patch on it’s lower back without feathers. There was a group of crows yesterday, exhibiting unusual behaviour and calls, around the trees where it was found today. Perhaps related. Is there any group that might be interested in studying it?

    1. Hi Darren. Please take any specimens of threatened species, like the Powerful Owl, to the Queensland Museum. It is best to put it in a plastic bag, freeze it, put a label in the bag with your name, contact details and where you found the specimen. Then take it into the Queensland Museum at Southbank. They may take a sample from the specimen for genetics, or they may keep the entire specimen for display – obviously that will depend on its condition.

  5. I have a female powerful owl living in my garden. She has been here for 3 years now. The male was here for a few weeks at the start but has not been sighted since. She even responds when I call out her name!! Very blessed

  6. Hi, I’m wondering if you can help me with this question.
    I have a tall fenced secure pound I housed four ducks in. They did not like the coop and would gather for the night under a bushy area at the far side of the run. One morning I discovered two of them completely missing, one female with her body only, no neck and my male drake with a broken neck. The female body was spotless, no sign of blood, there was no blood anywhere in the run, no feathers anywhere. I found a head only on my lawn a good 8 foot from the coop fence and a few feathers scattered here and there also outside of the fence. Is it possible that this attack came from an owl or other flying predator? I’m in Koongal Queensland and my property backs onto steep inclined wild bush area.

    1. Hi Katherine. Not sure what caused that, but it could have been a fox. They often cache their prey and come back for more.

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