"In Sydney the beating heart of the Powerful Owl Project, our citizen scientists, have sweated and been tick-bitten, cried a great deal but also laughed with giddy delight at the antics of our Sydney Basin Powerful Owls in 2020. We saw the identification of more new breeding territories this season than we have recorded in the last five years, bringing the tally of known territories from 214 in 2019 to a whopping 239 in 2020. More birds doesn't mean things are great for these birds though. The project provided 57 different advocacy actions to temper vegetation management, clearing, building and burning in New South Wales and Victoria to protect 45 different Powerful Owl territories and consulted around habitat building for four major urban developments in the Sydney Basin. Early indications on our analysis of the genetic make up of the Sydney population suggests the birds are all very closely related - giving us concern about the long term survival of this population." 
- Dr Holly Parsons, Urban Bird Program Manager at BirdLife Australia

Thank you for your support in 2020 as this project relies on donations to keep running.

The powerful owl

& Urban Spaces

The Powerful Owl is Australia’s biggest owl, and one of our biggest nocturnal predators. Powerful Owls may be able to kill a possum in a single squeeze, but they can’t compete with the rapid clearing of their habitat. The recent loss of more than 30% of their habitat in the catastrophic bushfires along the east coast, means this species is in trouble.

Our urban spaces may be the saving grace for Powerful Owls. They can survive within cities and, in some cases, even breed in suburban backyards. The Greater Sydney region has the highest known density of Powerful Owls anywhere in Australia!  10% of the up to 8 000 strong NSW population lives there.  But life in the city can be hard for Powerful Owls. They’re constantly losing habitat through urban sprawl and the removal of the big old trees they nest in. What few hollow bearing trees remain are hotly contested for by a range of wildlife and that isn’t to mention things like car strike (which kills 10-13% of them every year), and developing threats like rodenticide poisoning and inappropriate night lighting.

Photo Credit: Dave Robson & Cathy Cook 

The powerful Owl project


The Powerful Owl Project is a part of BirdLife Australia’s Urban Bird Program and keeps a watchful eye over urban Powerful Owls. In Greater Sydney we follow more than 428 individual adult birds, keeping an eye on where their nest and roost trees are, whether they are breeding and what they are feeding on. To do all of that, we need a dedicated group of citizen scientists –  they are our most important asset. Volunteers of all ages are engaged and trained to collect this ecological data. The project has grown from 40 known owl territories in 2011, to 214 this year. That is down to the hard work and countless hours put in by our volunteers (which have grown from 40 to over 600 in 9 years).   

We are working hard to protect this amazing species. Providing advice to and informing local councils and other land managers on how they can protect the owls on their patch.

Photo Credit: Cathy Cook