Masked Owl

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: Masked Owl
From: "John Walter" <>
Date: Thu, 14 May 1998 14:29:28 +1000
On 29-04-'98 I flushed an Owl from a cotton palm near our bird bath, 20
meters from the house. It flew to a low tree in the next garden where it
sat for about 3 minutes and I was able to get a good look. It sat slightly
hunchy, had a pronounced facial disc and was noticeably bigger and darker
on the back than a barn owl (which are quite common in the surrounding
grass and cropland areas). The Masked Owl tyto novaehollandiae is a lifer
for me. I am 99.99% sure of my identification, but it just puzzles me
somewhat what it was doing in a town garden. The town of Pittsworth is on
the Darling Downs which is largely a grain growing area, but the town is
also in a basaltic upland area where the predominant trees are Mountain
Coolibah Eucalyptus orgadophila in open woodland. The bird was hounded by
noisy miners and flew away beyond my range, so I was not able to get my
wife to confirm the sighting or follow it up for an extended view. 
 I wonder, as we have been in drought of varying degrees over the last 7 or
so years and have had a number of out of range or out of habitat sightings
in the garden, if that is the reason it turned up in town, albeit we are
right on the edge.
In the Field Atlas period there were no sightings closer than 3 degrees NW
of here, and on the coast, (where most sightings throughout Australia
were). Inland southern Qld. having the furthest sightings from the coast,
but with the point made that sightings are so few that distribution is
probably greater than that shown.
I would be interested to hear from others who have had sightings in
Southern Qld in recent times.
Ref. Atlas of Australian Birds RAOU 1984

John Walter
POBox 180
Australia 4356
Ph 07 4693 1487  Fax 07 4693 1469

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