Saturday, 6 December 2014

Tawny Fish-Owl

Animal of the Month

Tawny Fish-Owl; Photo by Nayan Khanolkar

What's so special about it?

Where there are ecological opportunities, nature finds a way to take advantage of them. In the forested valleys and mountain ranges of eastern Asia, the river life is particularly rich with fish, crabs, shrimp, frogs and waterbirds. As a result, various predators have evolved to exploit this bounty also, including some that wouldn't usually be considered as water-loving. You may know owls as austere, nocturnal birds of the woodlands, but along these waterways, Tawny Fish-Owls (Ketupa flavipes) fill the ecological role that is elsewhere occupied by birds like the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus). Just like the latter species, the Tawny Fish-Owl has bare, unfeathered legs and coarse grappling pads on the soles of their feet, adaptations which suit a fish-hunting aerial predator. Because they hunt submerged creatures which can't hear them flying on approach, they don't need to be as silent as other owls, so their wing-beats still make an audible noise just like a regular bird.

Where can I see one?

Though they are less common in the western part of their range, Tawny Fish-Owls are sometimes seen in India's oldest National Park, named after Tiger conservationist Jim Corbett. Located in the state of Uttarakhand, the park is an eco-tourism hotspot, receiving 70,000 visitors annually. The Tawny Fish-Owl is more regularly recorded in central and southern China, preferring remote and undisturbed river headwaters in mountain ranges.

Is there anything similar near Brisbane?

Powerful Owl;
Photo by David Lochlin
We have a large owl species that lives in the forested ranges and foothills surrounding Brisbane - the Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua). Often seen clutching the remnants of its meal from the night before, these magnificent possum-hunters are one of the top predators in the forest food chain. Like the Fish-Owl, they are sensitive to disturbance and prefer to establish territories in remote and secluded locations. This means that in Brisbane, they are only likely to be found in peripheral areas like Mount Coot-tha, as well as Sheep Station Creek Conservation Park, near Caboolture.

  • Note: this will be my last 'Animal of the Month' feature, in its current form at least. I want to offer new regular features for 'Wild BNE' in 2015 and have only ever felt this one to be mildly successful at best, so I'm prepared to let it go. I hope you've enjoyed 'Animal of the Month' while it's been around! 

Fish Owl photo courtesy of Oriental Bird Images.
Powerful Owl photo courtesy of Wikipedia.


  1. that certainly is one powerful Owl and very beautiful also. Thanks for information. Have a lovely weekend.

    1. Thanks Margaret, yes it certainly makes a big impression, that bird!