BirdLife Australia Raptor Conservation Grant

Conservation biogeography of the Northern Masked Owl (Tyto novaehollandiae Kimberli)

The winner of the inaugural BirdLife Australia Raptor Conservation Grant has been determined. A massive congratulations to Nigel Jacket, who is undertaking research on Groote Eylandt into the Conservation biogeography of the Northern Masked Owl (Tyto novaehollandiae Kimberli).

The objective of the research is to improve the conservation outlook for the nationally threatened Northern Masked Owl by improving methods for detecting owls, as well as better understanding landscape and habitat use, and diet. The research will also clarify the taxonomic status of Northern Masked Owl by analysing DNA from tissue samples for all Masked Owls within the Australo-Papuan region. This will determine if current conservation listings are appropriate for Northern Masked Owl and improve current conservation policies relating to the taxa.

The research will aim to combine traditional tracking methods (satellite tags) with acoustic arrays to determine home range size, identify roost and nest sites, as well as habitat and landscape use of Northern Masked Owl. The satellite tags will enable us to better understand critical information on home range size, relationship with fire and grazing history, distance travelled to foraging sites, and roost site selection. These results will also verify the landscape use results acquired using acoustic arrays.

Regurgitated pellets will be collected from owl roost and nest sites to quantify the diet of Northern Masked Owl. Results from this analysis may explain the owl’s absence in areas where their preferred prey have disappeared from the landscape.

Another major aim of the project will be to improve detectability of Northern Masked Owl using remotely deployed acoustic recorders and automated call recognisers and develop a method of discriminating calls from the superficially similar Barn Owl.

BirdLife Australia Raptor Group wishes Nigel all the best in his research endeavours and looks forward to hearing about the outcomes of this important project.

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