Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Vulnerable
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Tyto novaehollandiae castanops (Masked Owl (Tasmanian)) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010aj) [Conservation Advice].
 
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Tyto novaehollandiae castanops (Masked Owl (Tasmanian)) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010x) [Listing Advice].
 
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan not required, the approved conservation advice for the subspecies provides sufficient direction to implement priority actions and mitigate against key threats (13/07/2010).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey Guidelines for Australia's Threatened Birds. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.2 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2010l) [Admin Guideline].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Determination that a distinct population of biological entities is a species under section 517 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (97) (Tasmanian Population) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2010) [Legislative Instrument].
 
Amendment to the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (98) (13/07/2010) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2010h) [Legislative Instrument].
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
NSW:NSW Recovery Plan for the Large Forest Owls: Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua), Sooty Owl (Tyto tenebricosa) and Masked Owl (Tyto novaehollandiae) (NSW Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW DEC), 2006a) [State Recovery Plan].
State Listing Status
TAS: Listed as Endangered* (Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 (Tasmania): September 2012 list)
Scientific name Tyto novaehollandiae castanops (Tasmanian population) [67051]
Family Tytonidae:Strigiformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author  
Infraspecies author (Gould, 1837)
Reference  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

National: Listed as Vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The national listing does not include the population that occurs on Lord Howe Island (TSSC 2010x).

Tasmania: At the subspecies level, Tyto novaehollandiae castanops is listed as Endangered under the Threatened Species Protection Act 1995.

Scientific name: Tyto novaehollandiae castanops (Tasmanian population)

Common name: Masked Owl (Tasmanian)

Conventionally accepted as Tyto novaehollandiae castanops (Dickinson 2003).

The Masked Owl (Tasmanian) is the second largest nocturnal raptor in Australia (Young 2006) and weighs up to 1260 grams and has a wingspan of up to 128 cm, and body length of 47–51 cm.

The Masked Owl (Tasmanian) is mainly greyish-brown above, with white and black spots. The species has a prominent facial disc of pale chestnut-brown to brownish-buff, with a darker chestnut shaded patch around the eyes, extending towards the base of the bill. The rim of the facial disk is very prominent and brown with darker speckles. The eyes are blackish-brown and the bill whitish-cream. Underparts are boldly marked with relatively large dark spots. Legs are feathered and toes greyish-brown to yellowish-grey with long blackish-brown talons. Females are darker and larger than males (Higgins 1999; Lewis 2005).

The Masked Owl (Tasmanian) is endemic to Tasmania, including several near-shore islands. However, it is absent from King Island and the Furneaux Group (Tas. DPIPWE 2009). The subspecies occurs predominately in areas covered by the Tasmanian Regional Forestry Agreement (TSSC 2010aj).

The Masked Owl (Tasmanian) was introduced to Lord Howe Island in the 1920s to control Black Rats (Rattus rattus), without success (Miller & Mullette 1985; Hutton 1991). On Lord Howe Island, the subspecies is considered a pest (Hutton 1991) and is known to prey upon a number of bird and reptile species, including Lord Howe Woodhens (Gallirallus sylvestris), White Terns (Cygis alba), Black-winged Petrels (Pterodroma nigripennis), Providence Petrels (Pterodroma solandri) chicks, Lord Howe Island Skinks (Oligosoma lichenigera) and Lord Howe Island Geckos (Christinus guentheri), all of which are listed as Vulnerable under the EPBC Act (NSW DECC 2007b; NSW NPWS 2002r).

Garnett and Crowley (2000) report that the extent of occurrence for the species is 50 000 km2, and the area of occupancy is 7300 km2, both with a high degree of reliability.

Population estimates, for the Masked Owl (Tasmanian), range from 520 to 1330 breeding individuals (Bell & Mooney 1997, 2002; Bell et al. 1997; Garnett & Crowley 2000). The subspecies has been observed at highest densities in the east and north of Tasmania (Bell & Mooney 1997; Bell et al. 1997), and lowest at elevations greater than 600 m and in the western half of Tasmania (Bell et al. 1997). The lack of records from the west may, in part, be due to a lack of survey effort in the region (Bell 2008 pers. comm. cited in TSSC 2010x).

The Masked Owl (Tasmanian) inhabits a diverse range of forests and woodlands including agricultural and forest mosaics (TSSC 2010x). Forests with relatively open understoreys, particularly when these habitats adjoin areas of open or cleared land, are particularly favoured (Bell et al. 1997; Debus 1993; Higgins 1999).

Sexual maturity of the Masked Owl (Tasmanian) occurs at around one year of age, but the age of first breeding is unknown (Higgins 1999). Breeding of the subspecies in Tasmania is reported to be highly seasonal (Mooney 1997), with most females laying eggs in mid-October to early November (Green 1982a; Mooney 1997). Nesting occurs in large tree hollows of living or dead trees, but sometimes in vertical spouts or limbs (Bell et al. 1997; Higgins 1999). Two to four white eggs are laid and incubated by the female alone. The fledging period (time taken to acquire the feathers necessary for flight) is 10–12 weeks with young dependent for 1–3 months after fledging (Higgins 1999; Lewis 2005).

The Masked Owl (Tasmanian) is a nocturnal predator feeding predominately on introduced rodents and Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) on agricultural land, and on arboreal marsupials, terrestrial mammals and native birds in less disturbed habitats. Eastern Barred Bandicoots (Perameles gunnii gunnii) have been found to be an important species in the diet, along with Swamp Rats (Rattus lutreolus) and Tasmanian Pademelons (Thylogale billardierii), which may be up to four times the size of an adult owl (Young 2006). The subspecies' diet can vary greatly between sites, and individuals can switch between prey items depending on availability and prey size (Green 1982a; Green & Rainbird 1985; Mooney 1992a, 1993).

Home range of the Masked Owl (Tasmanian) can be extensive; a study of females in the Huon Valley gave home ranges of approximately 1800–2500 ha in highly modified rural landscape. Foraging has been observed occurring in smaller forest remnants (0–20 ha), but roosting was within larger patches of forest often close to streams or riparian vegetation areas (20–100 ha) (Young 2006). The species roosts occurs in dense foliage in taller trees or in tree hollows by day and it has sometimes been recorded in caves or rock crevices (Lewis 2005).

Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened birds

Survey guidelines have been developed for Australia's threatened birds (DEWHA 2010l). Although the Masked Owl (Tasmanian) is not included in these guidelines, the following advice for the surveying of the Masked Owl (Northern) (Tyto novaehollandiae kimberli) may be relevant:

Dispersion

The Masked Owl (Northern) is territorial. Usually seen singly but occasionally in pairs or family groups (DEWHA 2010l).

Detectability

The Masked Owl (Northern) is strictly nocturnal; is cryptic and quiet; and is usually located by call. It is said to be noisy in months before breeding and quieter after incubation starts. Its presence during the day is sometimes indicated by alarm calls of smaller birds (DEWHA 2010l).

Recommended methods

Broadcast (playback) surveys are effective in suitable habitat, especially in the lead up to breeding season. Detection occurs with solicited responses. Area and transect searches are unlikely to be useful due to nocturnal habits and cryptic nature. The species may also be attracted by squeaky noises (DEWHA 2010l).

Habitat clearing and fragmentation

The subspecies’ preferred habitat has been extensively cleared since European settlement (Bell 2008 pers. comm. cited in TSSC 2010x).

Between 1996 and 2009, approximately 142 000 hectares of native forest in Tasmania was converted to monoculture plantation or agriculture (FPA 2009 cited in TSSC 2010x). This has resulted in the loss of nesting habitat (large tree hollows) and the degradation and alteration of foraging habitat for the subspecies (Tas. DPIPWE 2009).

The loss of paddock trees during plantation establishment and the clearing of large hollow bearing trees for fixed irrigation systems on cleared land, is removing nesting habitat from large areas of agricultural land in Tasmania, where there is also little to no recruitment of younger trees (Tas. DPIPWE 2009). Additionally, although the species utilises fragmented open spaces for foraging, there is an associated higher mortality rate with these landscapes (Young 2006).

Residential development, particularly along the east and north coasts of Tasmania, has resulted in the loss of nesting habitat and the degradation of foraging habitat (Tas. DPIPWE 2009).

Rural tree decline

Tree loss from dieback (Kirkpatrick et al. 2000; Neyland 1996) is causing a continuing loss of nesting habitat for the subspecies. Most nest trees used by this subspecies in Tasmania are estimated to be in excess of 150 years old (Mooney 1997). In recent decades, the rate of loss of these trees through natural attrition and dieback has been very high, with little recruitment of young trees. It is unlikely that any of the nest trees which die, either through natural attrition or dieback, are retained for habitat (Tas. DPIPWE 2009).

Secondary poisoning

The subspecies can be susceptible to secondary poisoning if it consumes the flesh of another animal that has ingested a poison. In particular, the subspecies is susceptible to secondary poisoning from brodifacoum-based rodenticides (Higgins 1999), sodium monofluroacetate (1080) and Pindone (NSW DEC 2006).

Collision mortality

The subspecies’ habit of frequenting forest and woodland edges, and cleared land and paddocks, puts the subspecies at greater risk of collisions with artificial structures (e.g. powerlines) and vehicles (Bell & Mooney 2002).

Competition for tree hollows

The continuing loss of nesting habitat may result in increasing competition for large tree hollows between this subspecies and other hollow-dependent species (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Bell 2008 pers. comm. cited in TSSC 2010x).

Minister's reasons for recovery plan decision

There should not be a recovery plan for the Masked Owl (Tasmanian) at this time as the approved conservation advice for the subspecies provides sufficient direction to implement priority actions and mitigate against key threats.

Recovery actions identified in the Commonwealth Conservation Advice 

Refer to the Commonwealth Conservation Advice for the Masked Owl (Tasmanian) (TSSC 2010aj) for information on research priorities and recovery priority actions to mitigate threats including habitat loss, disturbance and modification. Raising awareness of the species is also encouraged in the Advice.

NSW recovery plan for large owls

The NSW recovery plan for large owls (NSW DEC 2006) includes recovery actions that may be relevant to the Masked Owl (Tasmanian).

Management documents that may be useful for the Masked Owl (Tasmanian) include:

  • Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Tyto novaehollandiae castanops (Masked Owl (Tasmanian)) (TSSC 2010aj)
  • NSW Recovery Plan for the Large Forest Owls: Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua), Sooty Owl (Tyto tenebricosa) and Masked Owl (Tyto novaehollandiae) (NSW DEC 2006a).

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Agriculture and Aquaculture:Land clearing, habitat fragmentation and/or habitat degradation The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 (Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley, 2000) [Cwlth Action Plan].
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Land clearance (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2001w) [Listing Advice].
Biological Resource Use:Logging and Wood Harvesting:Habitat disturbance due to foresty activities Commonwealth Listing Advice on Tyto novaehollandiae castanops (Masked Owl (Tasmanian)) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010x) [Listing Advice].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Habitat Shifting and Alteration:Habitat loss, modification and/or degradation Commonwealth Listing Advice on Tyto novaehollandiae castanops (Masked Owl (Tasmanian)) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010x) [Listing Advice].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Habitat Shifting and Alteration:Habitat modification, destruction and alteration due to changes in land use patterns Commonwealth Listing Advice on Tyto novaehollandiae castanops (Masked Owl (Tasmanian)) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010x) [Listing Advice].
Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Human Intrusions and Disturbance:inappropriate conservation measures Commonwealth Listing Advice on Tyto novaehollandiae castanops (Masked Owl (Tasmanian)) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010x) [Listing Advice].
Residential and Commercial Development:Residential and Commercial Development:Land reclamation and soil dumping due to urban and industrial development Commonwealth Listing Advice on Tyto novaehollandiae castanops (Masked Owl (Tasmanian)) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010x) [Listing Advice].
Transportation and Service Corridors:Roads and Railroads:Vehicle related mortality Commonwealth Listing Advice on Tyto novaehollandiae castanops (Masked Owl (Tasmanian)) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010x) [Listing Advice].
Transportation and Service Corridors:Utility and Service Lines:Collision with human infrastructure Commonwealth Listing Advice on Tyto novaehollandiae castanops (Masked Owl (Tasmanian)) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010x) [Listing Advice].
Transportation and Service Corridors:Utility and Service Lines:Powerline easement maintenance and construction; mortality due to collision with powerlines Commonwealth Listing Advice on Tyto novaehollandiae castanops (Masked Owl (Tasmanian)) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010x) [Listing Advice].

Bell, P. & N. Mooney (1997). The distribution and abundance of masked owls in Tasmania. Tasmanian Bird Report. 25:41-45.

Bell, P., N. Mooney & J. Wiersma (1997). Predicting Essential Habitat for Forest Owls in Tasmania. Report to the Tasmanian RFA Environment and Heritage Technical Committee.

Bell, P.J. & N. Mooney (2002). Distribution, habitat and abundance of masked owls (Tyto novaehollandiae) in Tasmania. In: Newton, I., R. Kavanagh, J. Olsen & I. Taylor, eds. Ecology and Conservation of Owls.

Debus, S.J.S. (1993). The mainland Masked Owl Tyto novaehollandiae: a review. Australian Bird Watcher. 15:168-191.

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2010l). Survey Guidelines for Australia's Threatened Birds. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.2. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: DEWHA. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/publications/threatened-birds.html.

Dickinson, E.C. (2003). The Howard & Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. 3rd Edition. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley (2000). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Environment Australia and Birds Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/action/birds2000/index.html.

Green, R.H. (1982a). Breeding and food of the Masked Owl Tyto novaehollandiae. Tasmanian Naturalist. 69:4-6.

Green, R.H. & J.L. Rainbird (1985). Food of the Masked Owl Tyto novaehollandiae. Tasmanian Naturalist. 82:5-7.

Higgins, P.J., ed. (1999). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds Volume 4: Parrots to Dollarbird. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Kirkpatrick J.B., A.R. Zacharek & K.J. Chappell (2000). Testing methods for mitigation of tree dieback in Tasmanian dry eucalypt forests and woodlands. Pacific Conservation Biology. 6(2):94-101.

Lewis, D. (2005). The Owl Pages Tasmanian Masked Owl - Tyto castanops. [Online]. Available from: http://www.owlpages.com/owls.php?genus=Tyto&species=castanops. [Accessed: 02-Mar-2011].

Miller, B. & K.J. Mullette (1985). Rehabilitation of an endangered Australian bird: Lord Howe Woodhen Tricholimnas sylvestris. Biological Conservation. 34:55-95.

Mooney, N. (1992a). Diet of the Masked Owl in Tasmania. Tasmanian Bird Report. 21:35-55.

Mooney, N. (1993). Diet of the Masked Owl in Tasmania: past and present. Olsen, P.D., ed. Australian Raptor Studies. 160-174. Melbourne: Australasian Raptor Association/RAOU.

Mooney, N. (1997). Habitat and seasonality of nesting masked owls in Tasmania. Olsen, P., ed. Australasian Raptor Studies. Page(s) 34-39. Melbourne: Australasian Raptor Association, RAOU.

Neyland, M. (1996). Tree Decline in Tasmania. Hobart, Tasmania: Land and Water Management Council.

NSW Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW DEC) (2006a). NSW Recovery Plan for the Large Forest Owls: Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua), Sooty Owl (Tyto tenebricosa) and Masked Owl (Tyto novaehollandiae). [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/nature/TSRecoveryPlanForestOwls.pdf.

Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (Tas. DPIPWE) (2009). Records held in DPIPWE's Threatened fauna files. Hobart, Tas.: DPIPWE.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2010aj). Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Tyto novaehollandiae castanops (Masked Owl (Tasmanian)). [Online]. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Canberra, ACT: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/pubs/67051-conservation-advice.pdf.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2010x). Commonwealth Listing Advice on Tyto novaehollandiae castanops (Masked Owl (Tasmanian)). [Online]. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Canberra, ACT: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/pubs/67051-listing-advice.pdf.

Young, D. (2006). Home range size, habitat use and diet of the endangered Tasmanian masked owl. Forest Practices News. 7(4). [Online]. Available from: http://www.fpa.tas.gov.au/fileadmin/user_upload/PDFs/General/FPN_Dec06.pdf. [Accessed: 02-Mar-2006].

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Tyto novaehollandiae castanops (Tasmanian population) in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Tue, 16 Sep 2014 23:52:18 +1000.