Protecting the habitats of powerful owls

Our five-year conservation project in Sydney’s Northern Beaches is preserving essential habitat for the endangered powerful owl. Your support allows us to carry out the vital work needed to protect these magnificent birds.

Powerful owls at risk

The National Trust (NSW) is working with Northern Beaches Council to conserve a small pocket of remnant bushland at Elgata Close Reserve in Avalon – one of Sydney’s few remaining natural habitats for powerful owls.

The powerful owl stands up to 60 centimetres tall and has an impressive wingspan of around 1.4 metres. Despite being Australia’s largest owl, the species is listed as vulnerable in New South Wales.

Daniel Adams, Regional Manager of the National Trust’s Bushland Management Services, says that habitat destruction and the loss of hollow-bearing trees are the main culprits behind the birds’ declining numbers.

“Powerful owls require moist, dense forest where they can take cover and roost during the day in large tree holes,” says Daniel. “This kind of habitat is becoming increasingly uncommon in Sydney due to habitat destruction. It’s not looking good for the powerful owl.”

Powerful Owl
Powerful owls need trees with large holes for breeding. These can often be overrun with exotic vines or felled for land clearing. Image: Unsplash.

Protecting habitats

To counteract these threats, restoration efforts have been underway at Elgata Close Reserve to restore bushland to pre-clearing levels.

Now in its fifth year, the project aims to create an optimal breeding environment for powerful owls, while also providing essential habitat for food sources such as possums and sugar gliders.

“The reserve used to be very disturbed,” says Daniel. “There were exotic vines in the trees which can smother gum trees and quickly transform an ecosystem. There was also a lot of lantana – a common weed that can drive out the small marsupials that powerful owls prey on.”

The Crew Removing Exotic Vines
A National Trust team member removes exotic vines from shrubs at Elgata Close Reserve.

Careful bush care key to conservation

In the pursuit of safeguarding these vital ecosystems, the National Trust’s Bushland Management team has worked carefully on the site to manually remove vines and clear out weeds. The team has also planted more than 500 plants that are endemic to the area to maintain biodiversity.

Daniel says that all aspects of the clearing and planting has put the owls first. “We do the work slowly and thoughtfully so as not to drive away the powerful owls. You can’t just come in and chainsaw the area. You have to take a step back and think about what’s best for the environment, and what’s best for the owls.”

Daniel points to the work of Joan and Eileen Bradley, who pioneered a hands-on approach to bushland regeneration in the 1970s. Known as the Bradley Method, this minimal disturbance method is still used by the National Trust today.

“We don’t go in with machines – we do it by hand, and we do it correctly,” says Daniel. After almost five years of work, Elgata Close Reserve is showing strong signs of rejuvenation and is now one of Sydney’s best examples of powerful owl urban habitats, with a strong and active breeding pair the team occasionally spots.

“Sometimes I get to see a powerful owl in the wild and it makes me realise just how beautiful and unique these birds are. I feel proud to be part of a project that’s directly helping the powerful owl and the ecosystem as a whole. It will be pivotal in securing the continued survival of Sydney’s powerful owl population.”

Elgata Close Reserve
Restored bushland at Elgata Close Reserve, showing the wet sclerophyll forests that are ideal powerful owl habitats.


Find out more

In the past 12 months the National Trust’s Bushland Management Services teams have worked on more than 140 projects to restore and enhance nature across New South Wales. Find out more about our Bushland Management Services.

Want to get involved?

We’re always looking for people to join the Bushland Management Services crew. If you have a passion for bush regeneration and enjoy working outdoors, contact us to find out how you can get involved in projects across Greater Sydney.


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