Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Friday, 19 August 2016

All Four Australian Tyto Owls in One Night (Plus Marbled Frogmouth)

Sooty Owl
An extraordinary night of owling was had last night in the company of Luke Bennett and Bob Sothman in and around the Sunshine Coast. We scored all four Australian Tyto owl species - Masked, Sooty, Eastern Grass and Eastern Barn. As well as Marbled Frogmouth, Tawny Frogmouth, Southern Boobook and Australian Owlet-Nightjar. We had a full moon. Some have suggested owls are less active on such nights; our experience was that they are about and much easier to find as they fly about.

Masked Owl
We were positioned at dusk in wet sclerophyll forest above the Booloumba Creek camping areas in the Conondale Range in the Sunshine Coast hinterland in an area where I have had both Sooty and Masked Owls previously, but not at the same time. The first Tyto of the night was a pale male Masked Owl that flew through the spotlight.

Masked Owl 
Then a typically darker female Masked Owl made an appearance, and was seen several times over the next 30 minutes or so we were here.  A Sooty Owl was heard in the same spot and it was tracked down low in the canopy. The bird was seen twice but briefly and while vocal enough, it proved to be less co-operative than its cogener.

Tawny Frogmouth
We moved further up the road and a Tawny Frogmouth appeared roadside.

Marbled Frogmouth
 Just 200 metres further on we heard a pair of Marbled Frogmouths and the female showed herself nicely. At the same time, the second Sooty Owl of the evening was heard but not seen.

Marbled Frogmouth
At a third roadside stop, a Masked Owl was heard but not seen: the third record of this species for the night. Soon after a Sooty Owl was seen well as it perched in roadside rainforest.

Sooty Owl
Then at a fourth site, we had good views of a pair of Sooty Owls close to the vehicle. One of the birds perched at what may have been a nesting hollow entrance. An Australian Owlet-Nightjar was heard here, and a Southern Boobook was also seen roadside.

Sooty Owl
All up we recorded 3 Masked Owls with 2 seen, and 5 Sooty Owls with 4 seen. On a roll, we thought we would go for 4 Tytos in one night, which may be something of a first.

So we headed over to the coastal lowlands and the sugar cane farms of the Bli Bli area. Here we quickly saw one, then two Eastern Grass Owls flying high over the grasslands. This was about 11pm, much later (early evening) or earlier (early morning) than I usually look for this species. However, a full moon meant the owls were easy to see in flight.

Eastern Grass Owl
At another roadside stop we saw another pair of Grass Owls. It is highly likely these were different birds given the distance from the first sighting, although it is remotely possible that the first pair covered a good deal of ground in a short time. Then we tracked down and flushed two fledged juvenile Grass Owls that were calling from the ground in long grass. We found a hollowed out retreat in the grass that they had been sheltering in.

Eastern Barn Owl
Really on a roll now, we went to the other side of Mt Ninderry to my regular Eastern Barn Owl site and saw a bird perched, albeit distantly, in its nesting tree. The pic here is of another bird seen at the site last year. A brilliant night of owling.


  1. Amazing Greg. I was wondering what area of Booloumba Creek Camping area as I see the Conondale Ranges have four camping sites on their web site.

    1. Jude, not in the camping area. Anywhere along the road that goes up from there into the mountains, and eventually hooks around to meet the Sunday Creek Road and Charlie Moreland Park.

  2. Amazing, Greg! I have been on multiple visits to the ranges and bli bli, however I have not seen or heard anything! What methods do you use to find the owls, as I am currently open to all options! Great photogaphs too!