The Australian Masked Owl
Generally found living on the coast or within 300 kilometres of the sea, the Australian Masked Owl is one of the many avian inhabitants of the Whitsunday Islands. While nationally their numbers are in steady decline, they maintain a strong population around the Whitsunday Islands and mainland Whitsunday region, and can often be spotted on bushwalks or nature excursions.
The Australian Masked Owl is easily recognisable by its distinct, heart-shaped face, from which it derives its name. Though their plumage can differ widely in colour from very pale grey and white to brown or black, their face will always appear lighter in colour, and their eyes very dark brown or black. The female Australian Masked Owl grows considerably larger than the male, reaching over a kilogram in weight and 50 centimetres in length, with the size of the owl increasing, relative to how far south it inhabits. The Tasmanian Masked Owl, therefore, grows to a much larger size than its tropical relatives.
The Australian Masked Owl inhabits a wide variety of habitats, including woodlands, forest and open country, provided there are suitable trees and nesting hollows nearby. Once a pair of Masked Owls have established their territory in one of these areas, they will stay within or nearby it all year round.
Though the Masked Owl is distributed widely throughout the coastline of Australia, the number of Australian Masked Owls and its subspecies is in steady decline. With 95 percent of Australians living near the coastline, the Owl has suffered from loss of habitat with the increase in deforestation and development. The Australian Masked Owl is now considered endangered in many parts of Australia, and several State Governments have begun investigations into conserving its existence.
Just one of many fantastic birds the Whitsunday region has to offer, the Australian Masked Owl is abundant in the Whitsunday Islands and surrounding region. With its forests, woodland and waterways, the region offers the ideal habitat for this unique bird.