Powerful Owls in Melbourne

Deakin University in Melbourne has been undertaking research to investigate Powerful Owl home range, spatial use and movement for three years. This current chapter of research is part of an overall 20+ year story to understand how this threatened species is coping with increasing urbanisation, and the management actions that can be undertaken to benefit powerful owls. We are thrilled to be working with Deakin University as they investigate Melbourne’s Powerful Owls.

Nick Bradsworth has been part of this research since day one for his honours project in 2016. He has returned to Deakin to undertake his three-year full-time PhD in powerful owl movement ecology. Nick has given us some background about the project below.

 

Three years into the past… and future

In three years, we have gained an incredible insight into urban Powerful Owl movement in Melbourne. Technological advances have enabled us to attach lightweight GPS trackers to adult owls to see where they travel to, and how they travel through the urban landscape. This information has been previously unavailable as it is difficult to undertake traditional VHF radio-tracking in urban areas where the land is mostly privately owned. By the time we could gain access to track a Powerful Owl into someone’s backyard and take a GPS recording, the owl could have moved 4km away! Automated GPS devices have helped us to eliminate this issue, with the added benefit of keeping disturbance to a minimum without the need to follow each owl, every night and record data.

Over the next three years we hope to further our understanding of how Melbourne Powerful Owls are moving through their range. We would also like to investigate dispersal through two different methods: GPS tracking of juveniles pre-dispersal, and through population genetics across their entire range (including Sydney and Brisbane). DNA analysis will allow us to understand if there is any movement across their range.

 

How can you help?

Report your Melbourne Powerful Owl sightings to BirdLife Australia via the Birdata app or via powerfulowl-melb@birdlife.org.au

Soon we will be requesting feather samples to be sent to Deakin University for analysis, which will aid in our investigation of movement across their entire range. More information will be provided in due course!

 

Follow updates on this project as they happen by visiting @UrbanPowerfuls on Twitter.

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