The Powerful Owl mentioned yesterday by Martin O'Brien is still in the Fitzroy
Gardens (500 metres east of Melbourne CBD) - I saw it this morning. It is high
in an elm directly above the north-south track which passes Sinclair's
Cottage/Gallery, about 30 metres south of that Gallery/Cottage. This area is
about 100 metres east of the more famous Cook's Cottage, and about 50 metres
north of Wellington Parade.
The bird is an immature - last night, as it was getting dark around 6 pm, I
heard it give a "juvenile-like trilling call" which, according to HANZAB4 (p.
818), immatures "possibly continue to utter" and "may help to distinguish" (from
adults). It was mostly giving this call rather calmly and quietly in response
to less-than-calm attacks from a Grey Butcherbird. The call was not strident as
it usually is when large but still-dependent young are begging for food from
their parents early in the night. In addition, close examination revealed some
presumably remnant juvenile down on the lower right flank, and compared to
adults I have seen, "whiter, less heavily chevroned breast and belly, with
chevrons smaller ... than in adult" (HANZAB4: 831, citing Schodde & Mason
1980). I could not really distinguish narrower chevrons as mentioned by Schodde
& Mason. The upperparts have been difficult to see clearly, but I have the
impression that the white barring on the upperparts and upperwing coverts is
slightly broader than in adults "giving a paler, more strongly barred
appearance" (HANZAB4: 83 seems to be suggesting that, apart from call, this the
best feature for distinguishing immatures). I also think that the tail of the
Fitzroy Gardens bird is shorter than is usual in adults.
Interestingly, David Eades from Birds Australia has told me of a Powerful Owl
with down on one of its flanks, seen by Kevin Bartram three days ago (I think)
in Alma Park, about 5 km SSE of the Fitzroy Gardens. Alma Park is smaller than
the Fitzroy Gardens, and the surrounding area is equally as built up (it's near
St Kilda). I am keen to hear from any observers who see a bird in Alma Park in
the near future - that is, it may confirm that there are two different birds in
the inner suburbs.
The closest site that I know of where (as I recall) there is a resident breeding
pair is about 18 km away (in a direct line), but there are many pairs that are
roughly 30 km from the Fitzroy Gardens, in the hills of the outer eastern
suburbs. Does anyone know of a pair closer than 18 km? You can email me direct
if you want the location kept quiet.
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