Who is the killer?

To: Roaminoz - <>
Subject: Who is the killer?
From: Anne Brophy <>
Date: Sun, 16 Dec 2018 07:44:37 +1100
Philip, I remembered your quote also. It is from David Holland’s ‘Birds of the Night’. The photo on page 44 is captioned “A Barn Owl roosting with a newly fledged Powerful Owl. The Barn Owl paid for this indiscretion with its life”

I did a brief literature search on avian Powerful Owl prey recently for an assignment and the following articles mention Tawny Frogmouth.

Bilney, R.J.  2013.  Geographic variation in the diet of the powerful owl (Ninox strenua) at a local scale.  Aust. J. Zool.  61: 372-377
Bilney, R.J.  2013.  Home-range, diet and breeding of a Powerful Owl Ninox strenua in East Gippsland, Victoria.  Aust. Field Ornithol.  30: 40-46
Chafer, C.J.  1992.  Observations of the Powerful Owl Ninox strenua in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven regions of New South Wales.  Aust. Bird Watcher.  14: 289-300 
Debus, S.J.S. and Chafer, C.J.  1994.  The Powerful Owl Ninox strenua in New South Wales.  Aust. Birds.  28 Supp: S21-S36
Eyre, T.J. and Schulz, M.  1996.  Northern range extension of the Powerful Owl Ninox strenua.  Aust. Bird Watcher.  16(7): 296-298

The following is interesting from Chafer (1992) observing a Powerful Owl

On 23 October 1982 my wife and I were travelling towards the Weddin Mountains State Forest on the South-West Slopes of New South Wales. At approximately 2130 h, some 40 km north of Young on the Henry Lawson Way, a Tawny Frogmouth Podargus strigoides was noticed perched on a roadside fence-post. The car was parked on the road verge with headlights shining on the bird, and after a few minutes a portable spotlight replaced the headlights. The Frogmouth was totally disinterested in our presence, its focus riveted to a spot on the ground. Suddenly a huge bird appeared from behind and to the left of the Frogmouth. It went straight for the Frogmouth, its huge talons wrapping around the bird's head. We were so startled by the owl's appearance that several exclamations were made. This appeared to affect the owl's behaviour because it dropped the Frogmouth, veered to the left and silently flew off into the adjacent forest, still illuminated by our spotlight 

Kind regards,

On 15 Dec 2018, at 19:44, Roaminoz - <> wrote:

Such an interesting topic ...

From: Birding-Aus <m("","birding-aus-bounces");" class="">> on behalf of Philip Veerman <m("","pveerman");" class="">>
Sent: Saturday, 15 December 2018 8:34 AM
To: 'Gordon Claridge'; 'Robin and Rupert Irwin'
Cc: m("","birding-aus");" class="">
Subject: Re: [Birding-Aus] Who is the killer?
I suggest it would be just weird if the Powerful Owl did not feed on Tawny Frogmouth. Which is why I suggested it (combined with Robin’s comment on the possum). They eat all manner of birds of that size and bigger and smaller (not just possums). Although maybe, as the Tawny Frogmouth is active at night, rather than most birds, that would be sleeping when targeted, it might at least have a better chance of evading being taken. I looked at HANZAB and the list is so long that I did not bother reading it all to see if Tawny Frogmouth was included. Maybe someone else has more patience. But I also recall seeing a photo years ago of a Tawny Frogmouth that roosted beside a dependant young Powerful Owl with the comment something like “it paid for this indiscretion with its life”. I thought (may be wrong) that was from David Fleay but it is not in his book. I wonder if anyone else knows where this was published.




From: Birding-Aus [m("","birding-aus-bounces");" class="">] On Behalf Of Gordon Claridge
Sent: Friday, 14 December, 2018 6:12 PM
To: Robin and Rupert Irwin
Cc: m("","birding-aus");" class="">
Subject: Re: [Birding-Aus] Who is the killer?


The possum with a hole in its side sounds like Powerful Owl.  I’d have expected two punctures, but they can be hidden under the dense fur - or maybe the PO didn’t get a good grip on it.


Are you sure there wasn’t a wound across the spine -it takes just one bite to paralyse the possum? See photos below.  I’m not sure whether they can kill a possum just with their claws, but having seen their feet close up I would not rule it out.


In the incident below the PO took only the head the first night, leaving the body on the ground.  Because we were aware that this is a common PO strategy we left the body where we found it (after photographing) and set up a wildlife camera - the PO was back very soon after sunset and took the body away, after posing delightfully for the camera.


We have also had situations where the only evidence of predation has been a pile of fur.  In one case it was a small scatter of possum fur with a few drops of blood through it (right under the bird feeder where the possums regularly come to clean up anything left by the birds).  I expect that it was grabbed on the feeder and then the PO sat on one of the side perches of the feeder to despatch it before flying off.  Another time it was a small scatter of wallaby joey fur (characteristically “crinkly” as distinct from adult fur) on a patch of lawn where wallabies graze at night.


Does anyone know whether POs take Tawny Frogmouths?  I’d have thought that they would be in the right size range for a PO meal.


Gordon Claridge








On 14 Dec 2018, at 10:33 AM, Robin and Rupert Irwin <m("","rrdjm140");" class="">> wrote:




We live on 3 acres just outside Torquay in Victoria.  There is of course quite a bit of activity at night but in the last few weeks we have had 3 occurrences which have left us wondering.  The first thing we found was a small amount of fur and an entrail at least 2 feet long, and absolutely nothing else.  The second was a possum with a hole in its side and no other damage.  Finally we found these attached feathers under pine trees - again nothing else.  The feathers are 23cms long.  Any suggestions would be much appreciated!


Robin Irwin  


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