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Powerful Owls at Mt Coot-tha

The Green Fire Science lab spends a lot of its time tied to the desk trying to save the world, so it’s good to take some time every now and then to get out and enjoy the biodiversity we strive so hard to protect. Lately, only a few minutes’ drive from the Brisbane CBD, there has been an opportunity towatch the life cycle of Australia’s largest owl, the Powerful Owl. GFS have taken full advantage of this with a couple of trips to see these wonderful birds which have been breeding on the slopes of Mt Coot-tha, west of the city.

Found along the coast and ranges from central Queensland to western Victoria, the Powerful Owl is a large bird, up to 65cm in length and with a wingspan of nearly a metre-and- a-half. They feed mostly on large mammals and birds, and are sometimes seen roosting during the day with a half-eaten possum clasped in their talons. Their taste for possums means they do well in suburban areas, with pairs relatively common throughout Sydney and Melbourne, and a few pairs resident around Brisbane.

Although not listed federally, the Powerful Owl is classified as Endangered in Victoria and Vulnerable in both New South Wales and Queensland. Like most of the ‘large forest owls’ such as Masked and Sooty Owls, they need large hollows to nest in. Deforestation is therefore the key threatening process for this species. Thankfully, their adaptability to human modification of their habitat means that provided there are suitable hollows for nesting, enough dense vegetation for roosting and enough resources for food, they can persist.

The Mt Coot-tha forest west of Brisbane is home to at least a couple of pairs of these magnificent birds, and only recently one of these pairs produced a couple of adorable youngsters which left the nest in late-July/August. This has provided plenty of opportunities to get along and see the birds, as they are quite site faithful. The two youngsters have been roosting in the same tree most days since they left the nest, sometimes with mum and dad in attendance, although the adults will also roost in different locations nearby. Soon they will begin to range more widely, but while they’ve been easy to find, it has been great to get along and enjoy the presence of this beautiful predator so close to the city.

Stay tuned to @grnfirescience for hear what's happening in the lab!

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