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4 Aug 2023

Local residents: Powerful Owls at Centennial Park

Centennial Park, a cherished urban oasis, is home to a remarkable pair of Powerful Owls that have captivated the local community for a number of years. From their initial appearance near One More Shot Pond to their nesting in the Paperbark Grove, these majestic birds have adapted to the urban environment, offering valuable insights into their behavior and inspiring conservation efforts. 

Establishing residence

In early 2014, the first Powerful Owl was spotted in Centennial Park near One More Shot Pond, according to a report in the local community magazine "The Beast." Although it soon disappeared, its presence was soon noticed by the staff at Centennial Homestead. They began finding "droppings" every morning on the deck and tables near the café. Upon investigation, a large fig tree over the deck revealed the existence of a majestic pair of Powerful Owls making it their home.

Monitoring and breeding behaviour

Bird enthusiasts in Centennial Park took a keen interest in these owls, monitoring their activities and behaviour. Initially, the owls resided in the Fig and Kauri Pines along Banksia Avenue or occasionally in the Figs and Holm Oak between the Gould Bird Sanctuary and the Brazilian Fields. As winter approached, birders observed the pair mating and made efforts to track their flights. Eventually, the owls were traced to the Paperbark Grove, just across Grand Drive, where they found a suitable nesting hollow. Reports on their breeding and nesting behaviour were regularly shared with Birdlife Australia's Powerful Owl Project, contributing to a better understanding of these owls in an urban environment.

Nesting habits and challenges

The Powerful Owls have consistently nested in the Paperbark Grove, Centennial Park. There can be some challenges for Australia’s largest owl in inner city parks, from vehicle strikes to human disturbance. Where possible, the Parklands places barriers around nest sites, reminding visitors to maintain a respectful distance and be mindful of our wildlife. Rainwater entering hollows can also disturb nesting owls.

Public fascination and conservation measures

The appearance of owlets has become a notable event on the Centennial Park calendar, attracting photographers and park visitors to the nest-site. To ensure the well-being of the owls and reduce stress on the adults, protective barriers are placed around the nest site, reminding visitors to maintain a respectful distance. These barriers also safeguard park visitors from potential swooping attacks by the adult owls when they are defending their chicks.

Changing residences

In recent years, outside of the breeding season, the territorial monogamous pair of Powerful Owls has primarily moved from their Banksia Avenue residence. They have found a new home in the pines of the lower slopes of the Sandstone Ridge, specifically around the toilet block opposite the Parade Grounds.

The information in this article was provided by Centennial Park Volunteer Graeme Robinson.
Find out more about birds at Centennial Parklands.
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