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Tracking Powerful Owls with Martin Maderthaner

When you ask long-standing Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours guide, Martin Maderthaner, to describe the hoot a Powerful Owl makes, he doesn’t hesitate. “It’s a very loud and deep hoot, a double hoot, really,” he explains. “It’s a commanding sound and you immediately know it’s coming from a large bird, a bird with a big presence.”

Powerful Owls are very big birds, with an average adult owl measuring 50-60cm, weighing 1.5-2kg and having a wing span of up to 140cm. “It’s Australia’s largest owl, and it takes on all sorts of prey,” Martin explains. “In East Gippsland we’ve seen Powerful Owls with captured young Koalas, Sugar Gliders, Ringtail Possums, Brushtail Possums, and as well as various diurnal (day active) birds, including Galahs and Magpies, caught while roosting.”

Powerful Owl
Powerful Owl. Image: Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours

Although Powerful Owls are mostly found in wet eucalyptus forests and rainforests in eastern parts of Australia, they are also regularly seen in bushland located close to cities, and even sometimes within city suburbs where possums are abundant and enough tree cover remains.

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Powerful Owl after a successful hunt. Image: Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours

“At Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours, we offer a number of private day tours that we personalise to our guests’ interests. We often see Powerful Owls in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, as well as in the Dandenong Ranges, which are only a short drive away from the centre of the city,” Martin explains. “On these day tours we also keep our eyes out for other wet forest birds, such as Lyrebirds, King Parrots, Rose Robins, Golden Whistlers and Whipbirds.”

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Lyrebird. Image: Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours

East Gippsland is another location where Powerful Owls are seen frequently, although due to the bushfires of 2019/2020, some of the forest areas Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours used to visit are not accessible at present.

Still, there are opportunities to see the birds in other areas of East Gippsland, and Martin is confident that, when forests affected by the fires regenerate and possum numbers increase, the Powerful Owls will return.

“On the four-day Wildlife Journey we stay in a homestead overlooking the Snowy River Valley at Orbost, and one of the highlights here is hearing the owls’ deep hoots from
the accommodation, or finding them in one of their daytime roosts,” he says. “They just stare at you unflinchingly with their piercing golden eyes, and you realise you’re in the presence of a formidable predator.”

East Gippsland Wildlife Journey

Venturing across East Gippsland’s magnificent lush rainforests, coastal heathlands, giant eucalypt groves, white sandy beaches and pristine rivers and estuaries, this four day immersive adventure offers you encounters with an incredible array of species.

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