Powerful Owls, the symbol of Mt Coot-tha, are listed as vulnerable & have a nesting area near the proposed Tree Top Canopy Tour of the zipline development. The pairs that have been nesting in this area for many years will either leave the area or stay and defend their habitat. This is not a suitable location for a private tourist attraction with a zipline three stage complex expected to bring from 200 to 700 people per day. The Lord Mayor when referring to the Bushland Acquisition Program stated that "...the greatest protection that we have is public vigilance around our bushland." Quote from Brisbane Times 20.3.18 Ruth McCosker Council Buys the Equilivent of 400 Suncorp Stadiums.
BCC doesn't appear to want that vigilance to extend to Mt Coot-tha Forest where they have awarded a tender for an adventure tourist attraction without adequate public consultation.
Regarding the proposed Tree Canopy Tour (Stage 1) Jasmine Zelený who is a wildlife scientist, stated that the pair are used to many people walking by their nest site every single day, but people flying through their airspace is a completely different story and will be very foreign to them.
6.8.18 Birdlife's Powerful Owl Project located two more powerful owl pairs each with two chicks on Mt Coot-tha. A massive group effort with a wonderful reward. Jasmine supplied the information.
May 2018 - Tonight I thought I would start sharing the first of my favourite group of birds, the owls. Here in South East Queensland we are fortunate enough to have 7 of the 11 species found in Australia!
It only makes sense to start with the most impressive owl of them all, the Powerful Owl. This post will be a little longer than usual as these guys need more recognition and protection.
These magnificent apex predators of the night are found right along the east coast from around Central Queensland right down to Victoria, mainly on the eastern side of the Great Dividing Range. They prefer dry sclerophyll forest and open woodlands where they favour creek lines and gullies for roost sites. We have a number of pairs right across Brisbane, many of which are situated right here in the west in places such as Fig Tree Pocket, Anstead, Brookfield, Mt Coot-tha.
The Powerful Owl is Australia’s largest owl at a whopping 65cm! Unlike most birds of prey where the female is the larger of the pair, with Powerful Owls, the male is larger. It can be hard to differentiate between sexes, especially if not side by side. In my first image I have included a photo of a pair, the female pictured on the left and the male on the right. You can see he is a larger bird, with a broader chest and a much squarer head with a very flat crown compared to the female.
There are a number of species people manage to confuse with Powerful Owls, such as Southern Boobooks, Barking Owls and even Tawny Frogmouths. Apart from their large size, there are a number of distinguishing features to look for such as their small head relative to their body, a long tail, bright yellow eyes and feet and most importantly, Powerful Owls have very distinctive chevrons (or you can call them love hearts) on their underparts which you won’t find on any other owl.
As you would imagine, these birds are highly efficient predators. They have some seriously impressive inch long talons which help them tackle prey items such as ringtail and brushtail possums, flying foxes, gliders, and even other birds! While Ringtail Possums are their favourite prey item and the most common meal on the menu, these guys aren’t too fussy and are opportunistic, so you can see them with some pretty interesting meals from time to time.
Powerful Owls mate for life and are winter breeders. While there is variation across their range, generally speaking, the further north you are the earlier they are likely to breed. Here in Brisbane, our owls tend to pair back up around late March early April when you will start to see the birds perching close together and the male might offer the female some lovely Ringtail Possum kill (so romantic <3). The male prepares the hollow for the female and then she incubates the eggs. During this time, he will be providing food for her every night and once the chicks hatch (Powerful Owls can have 1-2 chicks), he will be providing for them too.
At around 8 weeks of age, these gorgeous chicks covered in white down feather will fledge and enter the big bad world. This tends to be around late July early August for most pairs in Brisbane. The chicks barely resemble their parents at this age, and while they do look like innocent, cute little cotton balls, they will make quick work of a Ringtail Possum!
The second picture shows a chick that was only 2 days out of the hollow and looked totally unimpressed with the outside world - we know, buddy, life is much simpler before you leave the nest. For the next couple of months, mum and dad will be busy providing for their fast growing chicks.
Picture 3 shows a chick around 4 months of age sharing some Ringtail Possum with mum. These chicks will attain their adult plumage by around 6 months of age and will soon move on and look at occupying their own territories. Unfortunately, like a lot of our wildlife, these beautiful owls face a number of threats. The most significant of these being habitat loss. These large owls require old growth trees with large hollows for nesting and these are becoming harder to come across with increasing development. While these birds are fairly well adapted to an urban environment where food is plentiful, they are only surviving, not thriving and breeding due to limited hollow availability.
The main cause of fatalities in Powerful Owls is vehicle strikes, we have just recently lost a male bird up on the Sunshine Coast after it was hit by a car and his partner has been calling every night since :( They had just paired up for the breeding season and she was ready to nest.
See Jasmine's facebook posts to find out about an exciting new citizen science project which will help secure the future of these incredible owls, information on native animals & Birds of the Night Tours.
Jasmine Zelený is passionate about educating people and fighting for the preservation of these amazing animals. She regularly posts on the facebook site 4069 Community & Surrounds focusing on different species for her articles.
Photographs: Jasmine Zelený