Powerful Owl update - Sth QLD

Hey all,

Thank you for your participation in the project so far, and for submitting records on BirdData.  Together we have found many owls!

It continues to be a good time to go out and survey.

We know of four chicks so far that have flown away from their nesting hollows, but there are a number of places where chicks are still in the hollows. 

This breeding season is completed in some areas, but will continue into September in many areas, and in areas with young, it gets increasingly easy to find the birds.

Notice the new email address for the owl project powerfulowl-bris@birdlife.org.au.  I will keep the gmail account open, but will look to transition to this one. 

Also, notice BirdData now has a “Powerful Owl” option when ‘selecting a program’.  Please use this from now on, and update your app if it is not showing up (more details below).

For those who have not heard.  A Barking Owl has been seen regularly at Enoggera Reservoir in The Gap, and a Regent Honeyeater was also reported there a couple of weeks ago, as well as one Powerful Owl.  Worth a visit.


In this update:

I.  How many owls have we observed and how many of us are there now?

II. What are we seeing / what to expect?

III. Things to avoid doing

IV. BirdData tips etc

V. Background material, additional resources / links (sent out previously)

VI. Record the mammals or monotremes you see on ALA! https://www.ala.org.au/

BirdLife southern Queensland’s Powerful Owl project is proudly sponsored by the Logan City Council, and was supported by Brisbane City Council last year.


I. How many owls have we observed and how many of us are there now?

·        225 people have attended seven workshops on owls

·        147 people are signed up and have been assigned locations

·        73 Powerful Owl locations have been reported 62 this year and 11 others last year

·        81 historic locations have been identified (3 to 10 years old), and more have been sent to me

·        Active breeding confirmed at 7 sites so far this year, with four more suspected, and several others likely.

II.  What are we seeing / what to expect?

There remain a few hollows with chicks still inside, but some chicks are now several hundred meters away from the nesting hollow. In areas where young have been produced it will continue to be easier to find them through September.  Then in March adult owls will start calling regularly in their territories while preparing for the next breeding season.  March and April are when Powerful Owls tend to call most, so it is a great time to survey.

At this time of year, I recommend heading out to a territory at around 3pm and walking around, looking for roosting owls above increasing amounts of whitewash, then if nothing turns up going to the most likely nest trees between 5:15pm and 6:15 pm.  This has worked a few times for me now.  Also, I recommend first visiting those areas where you have heard owls repeatedly throughout the season, but it is not uncommon to have gone to a place multiple times without seeing anything, and then at this year going out and hearing the young calling.

If you do find a hollow or chicks, please keep visits as short as possible, so as soon as you know what is going on, leave the birds in peace.  Also, please leave before then if any of the owls are looking at you for longer than a couple minutes, bobbing their heads, or lifting (stomping) their feet.  Observe the hollow or chicks from 30m away, and be aware that this is the most likely time to be swooped by a male owl, especially if you happen to be close to a chick you didn’t notice was there.

I continue to be impressed at all the information coming in, and it is something that one person or a few people could never do.  Together we are unravelling the Powerful Owl story in southeast Queensland. THANK YOU!

III. Things to avoid doing

1.     Don’t play the call in an area you know has Powerful Owls, or have been told is an active site. This disturbs the owls unnecessarily, it breaks the agreement you signed, and the conditions the project is allowed to operate under, and it tells you nothing about where they might be breeding or if they are breeding, instead it brings the owl to you from sometimes great distances leading you to think the hollow might be close when it is more than a kilometre away.

2.     Don’t forget your permits, and to follow the conditions listed in them, If you don’t have the permits, or did not attend the induction, don’t do formal surveys

3.     Don’t forget to tell us what you saw, and email is OK, but BirdData makes our life easier

4.     Don’t forget to tell someone where you are going and when you expect to get back, and keep safety at the front of your mind when heading out.

5.     Finally, don’t trespass.  We can look to get access to places, but going where we do not have permission will hurt the chances of the project continuing.

IV. BirdData tips etc

Thank you to everyone who has submitted records!! Please submit a record every time you go out to BirdData even when you do not see anything.  If you do not see anything do not enter Powerful Owl as a species, just do not enter any species and press submit. 

You no longer need to start the name of your survey location with ‘Powl’.  By selecting the ‘Powerful Owl’ program when asked to ‘select program’ all records will be identified as part of the national Powerful Owl monitoring project. 

In order to enter data under the program, you will need to answer questions in a quiz about owls.  This only takes a couple minutes, and you only need to do it once.

For those who have not used it yet BirdData can be found herehttps://birdata.birdlife.org.au/ online, or as a free app from either the android or apple app store. I find it is very useful to use on my phone in the field, as I can switch to satellite view on the location screen, and identify if I am near the biggest trees in the area when I am surveying. 

In the meantime here are some instructions:https://birdata.birdlife.org.au/get-started

1.   click on or tap on the “Record Survey” button / banner

2.   Select “Powerful Owl” when asked to select Program

3.   A map should appear, and if using a phone, a blurry blue dot shows your location.  Just double tap and press ‘record survey here”, or click if online your location, you can also search for an existing site, so if you or the project previously created a location.

4.   Adjust the start time if needed

5.   Under survey type enter “incidental sighting” if it is the first time you have visited the area, or for any survey in an area where Powerful Owls have not been detected previously.  In areas we know there have been Powerful Owls and during the breeding season “March through September” enter Breeding territory monitoring”.For survey duration, enter 10 minutes for random surveys, or choose time, or leave blank and it will put that in when you submit when using a phone

6.   Enter your “owl observation skills”, “tree species of hollow or roost tree”, estimate distance to urban boundary (road or building), enter habitat, under location type enter whether you are observing a nest tree or a roosting tree, estimate distance to water.

7.   Please give your location any name you like, territories will be automatically assigned based on distance.

8.   Number of observers

9.   All species recorded is defaulted to no, so press the button if you record everything you see

10.  Press “record Sightings”

11.   If you do not see any species just click “Review and Submit” a warning will let you know you are submitting a survey with no species, but that is OK, we want to know zero counts when they happen

12.  If you did see or hear something Start typing the species, select it, then enter a number for count, and any breeding activity or comments you want to add, then click save, Aft”

13.  A summary of the information will pop up, this is a good chance to catch typos etc, if there is a typo that needs fixing, then just click on the banners above.  Note if you go to the location banner at any time, the map pops back up, with your blue dot to keep you from getting turned around in the forest at night, the settings wheel lets you go between satellite view and normal or terrain.  Once typos are correted, and click on review banner and then click on “Submit Survey” button

14. Once submitted you can look at your surveys on your phone app, but if you want to make changes, you will need to do that through the website.

Finally, it is really handy to use your phone in the field on, it times your survey, shows your location, and saves you having to enter the data when you get home.

V. Background material, additional resources / links (sent out previously)

Most of you would have seen this before:

We need help from volunteers willing to join our citizen science community at BirdLife to help secure the future of the Powerful Owl.  Some research suggests that spending time in natural environments has health benefits, as well as the obvious benefits this kind of project has for owls. So we hope you can join us.

BirdLife is a non-profit organisation that works to secure better outcomes for birds through community engagement, citizen science, research, and advocacy.

The Powerful Owl project will first deliver public presentations on the calls, identification, ecology and conservation of Brisbane’s owls. These presentations will also provide an overview of the Powerful Owl program which has been running in Sydney for over ten years, and touch on what we hope to achieve in Brisbane. The second hour of these workshops will go over the conditions of participation in the project, and formally sign up citizen scientists.

The Powerful Owl is listed as Vulnerable in Queensland, and occurs in many different areas.  We have identified over 150 locations we would like to survey this year including over 50 where it has been recorded in the last ten years.  

Before we formally get started, we encourage you to report any owl (or Tawny Frogmouth or any bird) observations via BirdData.  Powerful Owl will be calling more than usual in March and April as they prepare for nesting. Simply submit your observations to BirdData online at https://birdata.birdlife.org.au or you can download a free app from the iTunes store or Google Play store. You will need to sign up (at no cost) to create your own account. BirdData also allows you to explore our extensive database so you can find where different birds have been seen, or which areas have the most birds etc etc.  The precise locations of Powerful Owls are not shared on BirdData, rather the shared location is within 500m of where the owl was seen.  This is done to avoid having too many people going to visit breeding owls, something which at times can limit their chances of raising young.

What will the project involve for volunteers?

1.       All participants will need to sign OH&S paperwork, and paperwork indicating agreement to abide by the ethics and survey protocols of this project.

2.       All volunteers will need to attend an induction (the second half of our owl workshops) to sign the appropriate paperwork.

3.       Once signed up, volunteers will visit point locations and historic territories to listen for owls at night (no spot-lighting).

4.       Once owls are detected day time surveys will be conducted to locate likely breeding locations, and to determine if young fledge successfully.

5.       Mentors will include existing owl experts who will help with training and figuring out what is happening at individual territories. (please get in touch if you are an owl expert and want to mentor others)

Why is this project important?

1.       The Powerful Owl is listed as vulnerable in Queensland but we lack up to date information on where the owls are found, how big their population is, how that population is trending over time or what factors are related to breeding success.

2.       That information is required because the large patches of quality forest with nesting hollows are increasingly being impacted by human activities.

3.       The impact of human activities on Powerful Owl need to be understood in order to provide planners and managers with information to help protect owls.

Some links to further information:

The Sydney Powerful Owl project has been going since 2006, and they have an incredible amount of material including owl calls, videos, survey methods, reports etc. http://birdlife.org.au/projects/powerful-owl-project


Brisbane City Council has also generated some good sources of information on Owls in the region.


BirdLife’ s Birds in Backyards also has information and calls for many of Australia’s Owls.


Bird ID phone app, with detailed drawing of all Australian birds and all calls.

Birds of Australia, Michael Morcombe



VI. Record the mammals or monotremes you see on ALA!https://www.ala.org.au/

Simply click on participate banner, and record a sighting in the ALA (you will need to sign up, but all kinds of people want to know where we are seeing Koalas, echidna, greater gliders, platypus, etc.)



Rob Clemens

Brisbane Powerful Owl Team and BirdLife Southern QLD

Clarke Range KBA sign posted - BirdLife Mackay

Clarke Range KBA sign posted - BirdLife Mackay

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