Conserving owls in Sydney's urban bushland: current status and requirements
The distribution of records for the seven species of owls that have been recorded in the Sydney region are presented. Records made during the past decade have been compared, where possible, with records made since the beginning of the twentieth century. Information is also presented on aspects of the ecology (diet, habitat, nest sites, roost sites, breeding success) of these species in the Sydney region.
The Powerful Owl is widely distributed, albeit at very low population density, throughout the outer suburbs of the greater metropolitan area, particularly where these suburbs adjoin substantial areas of bushland and reserves. The Sooty Owl and the Masked Owl are restricted to a few such locations near Sydney, but both are more common in the wetter and the drier forests, respectively, of the Central Coast. The Barking Owl appears to be uncommon and of concern because this species is poorly conserved in national parks of the region and its habitat is threatened by continued clearing for agriculture and urban developments. The Grass Owl appears to be a rare vagrant to the Sydney region. The Southern Boobook and the Barn Owl may be common in the region, but their distribution and abundance appears to have been under-represented by official records. The status of all owls is imperfectly known within the most suburban parts of the Sydney metropolitan area and on surrounding semi-rural properties. Efforts are needed to encourage broadscale community participation in voluntary surveys for owls (and several of their main prey species) throughout residential areas. The conservation of owls in the Sydney region depends on the protection of extensive bushland areas from urban and rural development, especially the major forested gully systems which provide essential nesting, roosting and core foraging habitat for most species. The role of fire frequency and weed control in Sydney's urban bushland needs to be examined in terms of its impact on populations of the Common Ringtail Possum, and other important prey species of the owls.