Green Velvet

East side FM for any of you in Sydney Eastern Suburbs area – Bondi and Beyond!  This interview with ECA Director Mia Dalby-Ball is about bringing in areas of ecology into urban areas – starts after 11.40 can easily click to that.



Powerful Owl Expert this Saturday at Bidjigal Reserve

Kristen Hardy powl2 - Copy
Image by Kristen Hardy

Kristen Hardy powl4 - Copy
Image by Kristen Hardy

Powerful Owl_Kristen Hardy
Image by Kristen Hardy

Come and hear from David Bain Powerful Owl Expert. 

See the Powerful Owl (mounted) and hear about how you could be part of the Powerful Owk counting team this year.

Guided Walk and Talk through Bidjigal Reserve followed by Lunch and Children’s Crafts

10:00am – 2pm

Saturday March 23

 Meeting @ Murray Farm Scout Hall

 11 Haines Avenue Carlingford


RSVP for Catering:  or call 99184486 or 0488 481 929 (mia) (ah)

David is the new Powerful Owl Project Officer. David has a keen interest in conservation and ecology which has developed through a love of the outdoors and natural places. His interest eventually developed into a PhD involving the translocation of the endangered Eastern Bristlebird, a hugely successful project which led to the establishment of a new population of the species.

 Since that time David has worked with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and as a consulting ecologist for a number of years. More recently David has begun an outdoor and environmental education company on the south coast of NSW where he can combine conservation education and his many outdoor pursuits. He is now excited to be working with BirdLife Australia and Birds In Backyards. This role is being funded by the NSW Environment Trust and the 2011 NSW Twitchathon.

Meet at the Scout Hall at 10 have some nibbles before we go.
Head off at 10.10 under the M2 and into Bidjigal Reserve.
Walking along Blue Gum Creek and hear about the Owl habitat and environmental works along the creek.
Around 10.30 meet at the Heidi Place Fire Trail Bushcare place (you can join us here too).
We will be visiting the waterfall and hearing about the reserves ecosystem from Ecologist Mia Dalby-Ball.
We will be joined in the field by Dave Baine Powerful Owl expert from Melbourne. Dave will show us the habitat as well as sharing how you can be involved in Powerful Owl monitoring in Sydney in 2013.
Then back to the Scout Hall by 1.30 where we will have:
Free Native Plant Giveaway – courtesy of The Hills Council Nursery
Share great Lunch and hear from David about Powerful Owls in Sydney
Children’s crafts, Posters and more.
Wrapping up about 2pm.

Powerful Owl_Kristen Hardy

Come and learn about  Powerful Owls at Bidjigal Reserve

Come and learn about Powerful Owls at Bidjigal Reserve

Image by Kristen Hardy

Powerful Owl Project in NSW

The following information is from Birds In Back Yards Web site.

The Powerful Owl Project in 2012 has taken on an expanded form from the pilot program in 2011 with the appointment of Dr David Bain as the Powerful Owl Project Officer. Funding has been secured from the NSW Environmental Trust and the BASNA Twitchathon to run the project for the next 2 years.

The project will expand to encompass the Sydney Basin area from Newcastle in the north to Kiama in the south and out to the Blue Mountains. Similarly to last year, the project will search for and monitor nesting sites in the 2012 and 2103 seasons to help understand the extent of the population within the urban area and monitor breeding success, site fidelity and habitat requirements. In addition, the project will also focus on the development of education materials with partners such as Taronga Zoo and engage various land managers to workshop management measures to help in the conservation of Powerful Owls and their habitat.

From the fantastic support received from volunteer Owl Observers in 2011 and work of Birds In Backyards, the project has a firm base from which to develop from. Regular project updates will be provided on the website. The results from the 2011 pilot program follow.

Over 50 Owl Observer volunteers went out in search of Powerful Owl breeding territories throughout Sydney and the Blue Mountains. These wonderful volunteers located owls in 15 territories that bred and fledged at least one, usually two, chicks.  Owls in a further five territories were recorded as nesting but the outcome of these nesting events is unknown.  Another two pairs apparently abandoned their nesting attempt, for unknown reasons and six pairs were located by Owl Observers but breeding was not observed. The exact location of the nest tree has yet to be determined for several of these pairs.

Over 250 reported sightings also came in from the general public for 2011 and from previous seasons, unveiling even more potential Powerful Owl territories. When we look at this information about the locations of owl territories in which breeding has been recorded (e.g. chicks sighted), but not exclude 2011 observations, revealed that there could be an additional 25 breeding pairs in the Sydney region.  These pre-2011 records span a period of 22 years and so it is not known if all of these territories are currently occupied. These numbers are certainly much larger than the previous estimates made by Kavanagh (2004) of 20-30 pairs in the Sydney basin.

All but six of the 2011 territories were located in the northern, and north-western, half of the Sydney region (i.e. north of the Great Western Highway).  While there are a number of additional Powerful Owl records occurring south of this “line”, their status (i.e. breeding pairs?) is unknown.

Owl Observers (and members of the public) also made records of Powerful Owls with prey items and undertaking unusual behaviour. Ringtail possums were the favourite prey item but other birds and flying foxes were also sometimes observed. Interestingly one breeding pair were observed at the end of the breeding season with their own owlets and with the two owlets from a neighbouring territory also close by (whilst their parents remained in their own territory). Just how and why the neighbouring owlets ventured into another territory is unknown, but it is something we haven’t seen before.

In summary, we now know that there is likely to be more than the 20-30 pairs/territories of Powerful Owls estimated by Kavanagh (2004) to occur in the Sydney region.  Instead, there could be more than 50 pairs/territories.  Many of these “forested” territories include substantial areas of urban encroachment where the owls are subject to numerous human-induced threats.  We hope that as this project develops, we will begin to understand this population within the urban matrix and develop further understanding to help in the conservation of this species more widely.

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Community Events in Bidjigal Reserve in March

You are invited to 2 Community Events
part of the Powerful Owl Restoration Project
at Bidjigal Reserve
Family friendly and packed with great information and experiences.

Bidjigal Powerful Owl Community Events click here for copy of the flier

Presented by
Dragonfly Environmental
Project Support by Bidjigal Reserve Trust, through funding
from the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country.

Information EveningPowerful Owl Presentation
Light dinner and optional activities including
Poetry Writing and Bush Crafts
6:00 – 8:00pm
Thursday March 21

Harmony Day, World Poetry Day and
World Forest Day

Murray Farm Scout Hall
11 Haines Avenue Carlingford
Bookings (for catering purposes)
9918 4486 or Email

Guided Walk and Talk
through Bidjigal Reserve followed by Lunch and Children’s Crafts
10:00am – 2pm
Saturday March 23

Meeting location confirmed on booking
walking shoes recommended
Bookings (for catering purposes)
9918 4486 or Email

For bookings or questions please email or call 02 9918 4486
Questions out of work hours message on 02 9918 4486 if urgent Mia: 0488 481 929 (after the 16th March)

Caring for Our CountryBigjigal Reserve

Bidjigal Community Events

Bidjigal Community Events

Powerful Owl in a tree in Bidjigal Reserve
Powerful Owl in a tree in Bidjigal Reserve Bidjigal Powerful Owl Community Events click here for copy of the flier

Powerful Owls in Bidjigal Reserve

Dense Vegetation Bidjigal

Powerful Owl in Bidjigal Reserve - photographed during Bushregeneration Works by Dragonfly Environmental

Powerful Owl in Bidjigal Reserve – photographed during Bushregeneration Works by Dragonfly Environmental

Dragonfly Environmental with Bidjigal Reserve Trust Members In the Reserve

Dragonfly Environmental with Bidjigal Reserve Trust Members In the Reserve



Powerful Owl

Ninox strenua

A skilful predator that depends on our oldest trees for survival

Conservation Status

Vulnerable species in New South Wales (Threatened Species Conservation Act). At a national level it is classified as rare.

What does it look like?

Powerful OwlThis deft hunter is Australasia’s largest owl. Its staring yellow eyes contrast dramatically with dark, greyish-brown plumage on its upper body, speckled with cream coloured bars.  Its underbody is white with dark V-shaped markings. Its head is covered with distinctive white or pale brown plumage, with dark brown patches above the eyes. Juvenile Powerful Owls wear a beautiful white ‘crown’, with white plumage streaked with brown on their breast and belly. The beak of the Powerful Owl is short and hook-like. Adult Powerful Owls reach up to 60cm in length, with a wingspan of 140cm. They can weigh up to 1.45kg.

It’s hard to believe, but the Powerful Owl is the only owl that actually hoots, rather than screeches.  You may hear the Powerful Owl calling at any time of the year, but especially in March and April as their winter breeding season approaches.  Listen closely for a deep, resonant ‘woo woo’ or ‘wu whoo’.  They will always give a double hoot, with the female owl’s voice at a higher pitch. But the male is the one who hoots more frequently; he is defending his territory from other owl pairs!

By May, things have quietened down. And if you listen closely in June and July, you may hear the female owl calling softly to her mate from within her nesting hollow.

Where does it live?

The Powerful Owl is found in eastern and south-eastern mainland Australia.  In New South Wales, you will find the Powerful Owl in eastern forests from the coast to tablelands.  In general, its populations are dwindling. It is rare to find many owls living in any particular area. Fortunately, records of Powerful Owls have increased over the past decade in the Sydney basin; it seems their populations might be recovering in this area.

The Powerful Owl needs to live in generous stands of forest. Each pair of owls settles in a large home range of between 400 and 1450 hectares. The ideal habitat for the Powerful Owl is taller, wetter eucalypt forests.  However, they will also use:

  • Drier eucalypt forest
  • Woodland
  • Riparian habitat (beside rivers and streams)
  • Rainforest

During they day, the Powerful Owl seeks refuge in dense vegetation. Its favorite roost trees have a thick canopy, such as turpentines, she-oaks and rainforest trees. Preferably these roosts will be in a secluded gully, rather than on a high ridge.

What does it eat?

True to its name, the Powerful Owl is a strong and skilful hunter. By night, it swoops silently between the trees, seeking out medium sized, tree-dwelling marsupials such as the:

  • Greater glider
  • Ringtail possum
  • Sugar glider

In addition, birds and flying foxes are also important prey for the Powerful Owl. There are some clear regional differences in the diet of different owl populations. In higher areas, gliders are their main prey. But in southern New South Wales, the ringtail possum is more frequently on the menu!

In Pittwater, its main prey species is likely to be the common ringtail possum, followed by gliders, flying-foxes, terrestrial mammals, birds and insects. Most of the animals that the Powerful Owl preys upon need tree hollows and a layer of shrubs in their habitat.  For this reason, these are very important features of any habitat in which the owl is hunting.

What is its life cycle?

Once a pair of Powerful Owls has bonded, they will be mates for life.  They will stay within their large home range territory, repeatedly using their favorite hollow nesting trees.         It’s crucial that the Powerful Owl pairs have access to these hollows, which are usually found only in the oldest, tallest eucalypts in a densely vegetated gully.  Ideally, the nesting tree will be not only old, but wide, with a diameter of around at least 80cm at breast height. To reach this size, most trees need to be at least 150 years old!

From late autumn to mid-winter, the Powerful Owls will breed. The male owl roosts in a grove of around 20-30 trees.  He stays a few hundred metres from the nesting tree, where the female sits on a clutch of two dull white eggs. Just over a month later, the eggs will hatch.

The fledgling owls take two years to become fully mature.  They often stay with the parent owls until the next breeding season, and they may even delay the pair breeding again.

  Powerful Owl Chics

What are the threats?

The Powerful Owl is facing some serious threats. These include:

  • The loss of suitable forest and woodland habitat due to land clearing (this affects both their habitat and the populations of their prey species such as gliders)
  • Changes in forest structure due to forest harvesting.  In particular, the loss of hollow-bearing trees has a serious impact on the Powerful Owl.
  • Disruption near its nest site, which affects the ability of the owls to raise their young
  • Disruption caused by bushfires (including hazard reduction burns)
  • Road kills (one has recently been reported killed on Mona Vale Road).
  • Predation on baby owls by dogs, cats and foxes (cats are known to climb up to tree hollows to take the young of other large hollow-nesting birds).

What can we do to protect it?

There are a number of actions we can take to protect this remarkable bird. These include:

  • Conserve our remaining bushland, especially large stands of native vegetation with hollow-bearing trees
  • Preserve trees in urban areas that may be suitable habitat for the Powerful Owl
  • Establish wildlife corridors
  • Manage bushfires and hazard reduction burns appropriately
  • Minimise disturbance at nesting and roosting sites
  • Rehabilitate sick, injured or orphaned birds
  • Keep cats indoors
  • Educate the community about the Powerful Owl


Powerful Owls in Bidjigal Reserve

The breeding period of the Powerful Owl is from May to October, when the young will fledge. During the breeding season, the male Powerful Owl roosts in a “grove” of up to 20-30 trees, situated within 100-200 metres of the nest tree where the female shelters. If the team disturbs or becomes aware of a roosting owl, the location should be noted and this communicated to the Trust.  It may be necessary to work in another area of the project for a short time.


Outside the breeding season, Powerful Owls can be observed roosting in trees close to the creeks involved in this project. Care must be taken not to disturb Owls roosting close to work sites, especially by excessive noise. In consultation with the project coordinator, works may be avoided completely in areas where Owls are frequently seen, and diverted to another area.


Powerful Owls nest in large tree hollows (at least 0.5 m deep), in large eucalypts (diameter at breast height of 80-240 cm) that are at least 150 years old. Trees of this size and age need to be protected and recruitment of suitable replacement trees encouraged. Within Bidjigal Reserve the species that seem to be used by POWLs include Angophoras (Angophora costata) and red bloodwoods (Corymbia gummifera). The main prey species is the Common Ringtail Possum, which nests in communal dreys in dense vegetation, often in the riparian zone but also frequently in urban gardens and the interface. While some disturbance of this species may be impossible to avoid, steps should be taken to minimize this disturbance.


The altered hydrology of the drainage system surrounding and within Bidjigal means that flash flooding can be expected soon after any moderate to heavy rain. If rain occurs care should be taken to move out of the creek bed and ensure vehicles are not trapped on the southern side of the causeway across Blue Gum Creek. These sudden high flows also mean that the riparian area is frequently scoured by water, making the establishment of riparian plant species difficult and depositing weed propagules from elsewhere in the catchment. This should be considered if any planting is proposed. Long stem methods may be appropriate.