Love calls of powerful owls

Love calls of powerful owls

Love calls of powerful owls ring out along eastern Australia

Posted on 22.04.2020

Mating calls of Australia’s largest owl — the powerful owl — are now being heard along eastern Australia.

And this noisy kick-off to the breeding season gives vital clues to scientists trying to track and protect this magnificent bird.

It turns out our big cities are an important refuge for the owl — especially since the recent fires burned much of its natural home. And researchers want our help in finding its urban haunts.

Big bird that eats big food

The powerful owl (Ninox strenua) is named for its strength.

“They are the only bird in Australia that carries more than its own body weight in food when it flies,” conservation biologist Beth Mott from BirdLife Australia, says.

The birds are a top predator and adults stand at about 60 centimetres high and have a wingspan of 1.5 metres — the same length as our social distancing requirements!

Like all owls, these birds can sneak up on their dinner, thanks to wings with super soft feathers that enable them to fly silently.

And their talons are capable of seizing prey up to the size of a koala or possum.

“We’re talking about a big bird that eats big food,” Dr Mott says.

The thing is, it’s very hard to see these owls because they are very well camouflaged and only come out at night for activities like ‘possum shopping’.

But their calls are a dead giveaway. They’re the only Australian owl that makes a classic owl sound — a double-note ‘whoo-hoo’ that can be heard up to two kilometres away.

This is what you can expect to hear if owls are around.

If you hear or spot evidence of powerful owls, scientists like Dr Mott at the Birdlife Australia’s Powerful Owl Project want to hear from you.

You might also want to help them further as a citizen scientist. This involves monitoring owls from April to October — you could even follow a pair through courtship to when their cute chicks hatch.

“Citizen scientists are the heart of this research effort. Without them, we couldn’t help the owls,” says Dr Mott.

Anna Salleh

ABC News





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