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.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Rare Owl Victims of Vehicle Strike & Pesticide Poisoning

Sooty Owl roadkill - Pic by Matt Harvey
A Sooty Owl and an Eastern Grass Owl are the latest victims in a spate of incidents of rare owls being killed or wounded by vehicle strike or apparent chemical poisoning around the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in South-East Queensland. While extremely unfortunate, these incidents are telling us a bit more about the distribution and habitat of these little-known birds.

Sooty Owl talon - Pic by Matt Harvey
An adult female Sooty Owl was found dead last week near the entrance to Australia Zoo on Steve Irwin Way, Beerwah, by Australia Zoo wildlife rescue worker Matt Harvey. This area is not what could be regarded as prime habitat for the rainforest-loving Sooty Owl. It is essentially open forest with at best a thick understory with some rainforest plants. The owl weighed in at over a kilo; the image of its talon demonstrates what a formidable predator this bird can be. 

Eastern Grass Owl road victim - Pic by Ken Cross
Also last week, Ken Cross found a dead Eastern Grass Owl near Gatton. This species is associated with extensive grasslands and wallum heath. It was found in a mixed area of barley crops and pastoral paddocks. What the bird was doing in the relatively dry climes of the Lockyer Valley is something of a mystery.

Eastern Grass Owl road kill - Pic by Matt Harvey
In his work with Australia Zoo, Matt comes across more than his fair share of owl road victims. He found a road-killed Eastern Grass Owl last year on Old Toorbul Road, Toorbul, in an area that is mixed Pinus plantation, cleared paddocks and coastal open forest: again, seemingly unfavourable habitat for this species.

Eastern Grass Owl road victim - Pic by Matt Harvey 
An Eastern Grass Owl came to Matt's attention from the dry Roma district of central-west Queensland in yet another example of the species turning up in unexpected places. Perhaps the birds are more nomadic than is generally thought, moving over large distances to suitable habitat as rodent populations fluctuate. This owl thankfully survived.

Eastern Grass Owl road victim - pic by Sarah Bevis
I am aware of at least four road-killed Eastern Grass Owls from the Sunshine Coast in recent years, including this bird found in 2013 at Yandina Creek by Sarah Bevis.

Sooty Owl road victim - Pic by Matt Harvey
Matt helped rescue a Sooty Owl last year that was hit by a vehicle in wet sclerophyll forest between Beerwah and Peachester in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. At least the owl was in suitable habitat this time, and the bird also survived its ordeal.

Masked Owl chemical victim - Pic by Vic Jakes
Also last year, Vic Jakes found this dead male Masked Owl near his home at Cooroy Mountain, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. The site where the bird was found appears to rule out vehicle strike as the cause of its demise. The owl was in pristine condition with no indication of physical damage. Vic had previously found dead Torresian Crows around his place that were almost certainly poisoned by pesticides or other chemicals. He believes that was the fate of the Masked Owl as well. 

Masked Owl chemical victim - Pic by Vic Jakes


  1. Very well documented Greg. It is very depressing though. I wish we could change our attitudes.

  2. A shocking post this time Greg. I find I can never find an owl and here you are recording many owls dead by various means. I used to hear the Southern Boobook at all hours during the night whilst lying in bed but the last time I heard them calling was 2014. Jude