Issue Number #34
Issue Date Autumn 2006
Number of Articles Online 1 Articles
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Title Owls Worth Looking After on Farms

Summary of an interview with Anna Povey reported in the March edition of Tasmanian Country.

Anna Povey of the Understorey Network said that if farmers look after owls' habitat - by keeping hollow trees for nesting, as well as areas of dense small trees for roosting, on their property - owls can return the favour by providing valuable and often unnoticed environmental services. Predators and parasites supported by remnant forests benefit farmers by eating insect as well as furry pests.

The masked owl - the largest member of the barn owl group - could eat animals as large as rabbits, providing a free pest control service. Bats, also seldom noticed, could eat roughly half their body weight of insects in a night - as many as 4000 mosquitoes.

Owls and bats are dependent on hollow trees. Masked owls require a hollow at least 20 cm in diameter, which they typically find in trees older than 200 years. Dead hollow trees are as suitable as live trees but clearing has resulted in Tasmanian masked owls, once Australia's most dense masked owl population, having recently been added to the endangered species list.

The World Heritage Area is generally not good owl habitat as they prefer drier environments such as in the eastern half of Tasmania, and they especially favour the margins of paddocks and forests. This is an important predator and endangered species, that lives right amongst us.

Artificial hollows could be effective if they were of the right design.

Farmers who detected the owl's screeching call on their properties should "feel very proud".

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