Killer Claws

To: Michael Hunter <>
Subject: Killer Claws
From: Gordon Claridge <>
Date: Sat, 15 Dec 2018 13:46:50 +1000
I have only one bit of evidence on how a Powerful Owl killed its prey.  

A headless possum body found one morning under a tree beside a waterhole - two 
deep punctures (one on each side of body) and a “bite” across the spine (deep 
penetration, but not wider than one would expect from a Powerful Owl bite) that 
seemed to have encircled and possibly severed the spine.  (photos sent 
yesterday with details of this incident and others - maybe lost because of 

We suspected Powerful Owl because a friend had found a fresh headless carcass 
on his driveway not long before, and when we did some digging we found 
references to POs taking off the head and carrying it back to the roost (?nest) 
then coming back for the body.

We left the body where it was found and put a wildlife camera nearby.  PO 
arrived not long after sunset and was photographed astride the body, which was 
gone in the morning (no other triggers on the camera from the time of setting 
up to picking it up the next morning).

We regularly get POs calling - often single bird, sometimes male and female.  
Find it interesting that they are often calling for extensive periods while in 
flight - we are on a high ridge with a view over an extensive area of bushland 
360 degree - which allows us to follow the direction of the call.  

In well over a decade of hearing POs, we had seen one only once until the 
recent camera trap photo.

That sighting was in a tree in the 50m wide firebreak around our house. Which 
brings me to the discussion on whether or not POs might take Tawny Frogmouths 
at night - Frogmouths regularly sit on stumps in the firebreak, apparently 
using them as vantage points for spotting prey.  Depending on the direction 
that the PO came from and its speed I would have thought that a Frogmouth in 
that situation would have been at some risk.

We are pretty sure that POs regularly take possums off a bird feeder in the 
edge of the firebreak - not a dissimilar situation to the Frogmouths.

Gordon Claridge
Vinegar Hill (near Gatton, Queensland)

> On 15 Dec 2018, at 8:24 AM, Michael Hunter <> wrote:
> The mystery killer at Torquay prompts a question as to how avian raptors do 
> actually kill their prey.
> Despite their great hooked beaks, Wedge-tailed Eagles kill with their claws, 
> using their beaks to tear up their victims, or any carrion they eat.  Or so I 
> once read.
> Apart from Powerful Owls do any Australian Owls prey on large mammals. Mice 
> are obviously caught and killed in bills, so presumably possums would be an 
> extension of that technique, but, to be pedantic, does anyone really know if 
> they are claw or bill killers?
> Another unrelated question.  We have a continuous stream of many different 
> bird species coming to our yard at different times of day, attracted by a 
> bird feeder and kitchen scraps which they recycle.
> A family of six Purple Gallinules, including three sub-adult juveniles from 
> the dam over 10Om away, very habituated to humans over the years, has invaded 
> our yard. 
> Initially this was  a welcome development but they are there all the time, 
> coming onto the verandah a and their large droppings are a big problem.
> Being habituated, when chased they walk a few metres away, look back at the 
> chaser then return.
> We don't have a dog anymore and handed the shotgun in years ago.(joking).  
> Any humane solutions apart from not feeding our flock ?
>                Cheers
>                      Michael
> Sent from my iPhone
> <HR>
> <BR> Birding-Aus mailing list
> <BR> 
> <BR> To change settings or unsubscribe visit:
> <BR>
> </HR>

<BR> Birding-Aus mailing list
<BR> To change settings or unsubscribe visit:
<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU