2023 Powerful Owl Update

As the breeding season of Powerful Owls in Sydney approaches, it's important to be aware of these amazing birds, keeping eyes and ears peeled. These birds of prey are the largest owl species found in Australia and are known for their striking yellow eyes and powerful talons.

Breeding season for Powerful Owls typically starts in May and continues until August, during which time they mate and rear their gorgeous young using very big old hollow-bearing trees. If you're lucky enough to have these threatened birds in your area, expect to hear their distinctive hoots echoing through the night. 

Over the last 11 years, the Powerful Owl Project from BirdLife Australia has monitored more than 260 Powerful Owl territories, collecting data through the amazing efforts of our volunteers and helping land managers to look after the birds on their patch. With all of the rain last year, it was a tough year for Sydney local Powerful Owls, with the lowest proportion of known birds breeding since we started watching them and low breeding success overall. We are hoping for a better year, but we need your help. 

If you're lucky enough to spot a Powerful Owl, it's important to keep a safe distance and observe them from afar. Please report any Powerful Owl sightings to powerfulowl@birdlife.org.au

Words by Dr Holly Parsons from Birdlife Australia.


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

The Powerful Owl


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 

You can support this project by making a swimwear purchase from our current Bush Checker Capsule.