Powerful owl

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Powerful owl
Ninox strenua -Lane Cove National Park, Sydney, Australia-8.jpg
Powerful Owl holding the back half of a Common Ringtail Possum, Lane Cove National Park, Sydney
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae
Genus: Ninox
Species: N. strenua
Binomial name
Ninox strenua
(Latham, 1802)
Powerful Owl.png
The Distribution of the Powerful Owl

The powerful owl is a species of owl native to south-eastern and eastern Australia, the largest owl on that continent. It is found in coastal areas, the Great Dividing Range rarely more than 200 km inland. The IUCN Red List refers to this species as powerful boo-book, however this is not used as a common name in Australia.


The powerful owl has large yellow eyes, grey-brown V-barring on all features and dull yellow feet. They are aptly named, with very powerful and heavy claws. This owl is the largest species of the "hawk owl" group. This species measures 45–65 cm (18–26 in) in length and spans 112–135 cm (44–53 in) across the wings. Unlike in most owl species, the male, at 1.15–1.7 kg (2.5–3.7 lb) is slightly larger than the female, at 1.05–1.6 kg (2.3–3.5 lb).[2] Some authors claim weights of up to 2.2 kg (4.9 lb).[3]


Mount Coot-tha, SE Queensland, Australia

Range is from Eungella in Queensland south to the central highlands of Victoria and west to Mount Burr in South Australia.


Powerful owl - Sydney, NSW, Australia

Habitat includes mountain and coastal forests, gullies, forest margins, woodlands including sparse hilly woodlands, scrub, plantations and urban and rural parks and gardens.


Usually found in breeding pairs in a large territory, it nests from May to September in hollow tree trunks 8–30 metres above the ground. The nesting material includes decaying debris and leaf litter. Eggs are oval and dull white. One to two and rarely three are laid per breeding season. It can be found in many places throughout Australia, mainly the coast of New South Wales and Victoria.


Powerful owl on a suburban TV aerial, Chatswood West, Australia

The powerful owl is a nocturnal predator of forests and woodlands. Its diet consists largely of arboreal marsupials such as the greater glider (Petauroides volans), ringtail possums, brushtail possums, koala, sugar glider and feathertail glider, as well as grey-headed flying foxes (Pteropus poliocephalus). The greater glider and the common ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus) are especially prominent in the powerful owl's diet in some regions.[4] They will also feed on nocturnal birds such as the tawny frogmouth and roosting diurnal birds such as cockatoos and parrots, kookaburras, currawongs and honeyeaters. Insects may supplement the diet and are typically taken on the wing. The vast majority of prey is taken from trees including unlikely items such as rock-wallabies that sometimes take refuge in trees.

Conservation status[edit]

Female and fledgling, Mount Coot-tha, Brisbane

Powerful owls are not listed as threatened on the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. However, their conservation status varies from state to state within Australia. For example:

  • The powerful owl is listed as "threatened" on the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act (1988).[5] Under this Act, an Action Statement for the recovery and future management of this species has been prepared.[6]
  • On the 2013 advisory list of threatened vertebrate fauna in Victoria, the powerful owl is listed as vulnerable.[7]
  • On the New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act the powerful owl is scheduled as "Vulnerable".


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Ninox strenua". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ [1] (2011).
  3. ^ Hollands (2008) Owls, Frogmouths and Nightjars of Australia, Bloomings Books, p318
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria
  6. ^ Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria
  7. ^ Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment (2013). Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria - 2013. East Melbourne, Victoria: Department of Sustainability and Environment. p. 12. ISBN 978-1-74287-504-0. 

External links[edit]