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23 Mar 2014

Powerful Owl spotted in Centennial Park

With over 140 species of birds known to frequent Centennial Parklands, we are still delighted when a rare feathered visitor is spotted. This latest sighting has not only caught our attention, but that of the Australian birdwatching community.

Owls, while not unknown visitors to Centennial Park, are rarely sighted. However last week the rarest of them all – the Powerful Owl – was spotted by our friends and avid twitchers, Dan Hutton and his father Keith Hutton (Dan is better known as one of the brothers behind the magazine, The Beast).

Why is this an exciting sighting?

The sighting of a Powerful Owl is exciting for a number of reasons, most notably that it does not appear on Ern Hoskin’s bird list (which covered a 50 year period, up until 2009, and documents over 150 species that he spotted over that time). Ern’s list only contained one owl – the Southern Boobook Owl.

Sightings of the Powerful Owl, and the recently recorded Barn Owl, appear to be relatively new additions to the Parklands’ wildlife.


What is a Powerful Owl?

The Powerful Owl is the largest recorded owl in Australia and is one of the supreme nocturnal predators in the forests of south-eastern Australia. It is named so for its sheer size and very powerful heavy claws!

The largest species of the “hawk owl” group, the Powerful Owl measures in at 45–65 cm in length and spans 112–135 cm across the wings. Unlike most owl species, the male, weighs in at 1.15–1.7 kg and is slightly larger than the female, at 1.05–1.6 kg.

Why might the Powerful Owl have come to Centennial Park?

The Powerful Owl’s typical habitat includes mountain and coastal forests, gullies, forest margins, woodlands including sparse hilly woodlands, scrub, plantations and urban and rural parks and gardens. They feed almost exclusively on large tree-dwelling mammals, especially the Common Ringtail Possum, but they also take a few large birds.

The Grey-headed Flying Fox is also known to be a favourite food item for the owls…perhaps making Centennial Park a perfect home!

The owl sighted in Centennial Park appears to be a young adult possibly establishing a new territory and looking for a mate.

What you can do to help

Park visitors can report sightings of Powerful Owls through Birdata online or through their app.

However, if you come across a Powerful Owl nest use caution and please do not approach it. Do not use flash photography at the nest as this may disturb and stress the birds and cause them to abandon the nest.

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