Masked Owls in northern Australia

To: "Harvey Perkins" <>, <>
Subject: Masked Owls in northern Australia
From: "Michael Todd" <>
Date: Thu, 9 Nov 2000 10:57:41 +1000
Hello Harvey,

This idea has occurred to me. As far as I know this has never been
documented- others would know more about this. One of the problems is that
sightings and specimens of Masked Owls fron northern Australia are few and
far between let alone nests so hybridization would be difficult to detect. I
suppose that genetic analysis of the specimens would be the best way open to
solve the problem.

Suitable habitat for a bird like the Masked Owl is pretty sparse in northern
Australia and so populations would have been prone to a lot of isolation in
the past, especially as they would probably be more sedentary than Barn
Owls. This could have caused the seemingly extreme variation that exists. I
guess it would also make small populations more likely to hybridize with
more widespread Barn Owls.

It seems ridiculous to think about Barn Owls and Masked Owls hybridizing
when you look at the size difference between the Tasmanian Masked Owls and
Barn Owls. I've never seen Tasmanian Maskeds in the flesh, but I was amazed
at the difference between them and other Tytos when I placed specimens side
by side in the Australian Museum (thanks to Walter Boles for giving me the
access). The Tassie Maskeds looked just about big enough to eat the Barns!

The variation in some of our birds over their range throughout Australia is
confusing and says to me how complicated nature can be, and how difficult it
is to fit round pegs into square holes! This I guess is the lot of the
taxonomist! I'll stick to ecology.


Mick Todd

Michael Todd
Tropical Savannas CRC
PO Box 780, Atherton, Qld, 4883
Phone- (07) 40918837

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