How to Identify Owls in Brisbane


Pick any night in Brisbane and you are likely to come across some of the most beautiful owls on the planet. But not all owls are alike. In our area around Brisbane, they range in size from the massive Powerful owl through to the much smaller Southern Boobook –each with their distinctive calls and colours.

The Powerful Owl is the largest. It grows between 55 – 65cm tall and is the only owl in the area that makes the classic “whoo hoo” sound. They have large golden eyes and brown mottled feathers. While generally quite shy, in nesting season the male Powerful Owls have been known to become aggressive and will attack humans near their nests. If you have any problems with these owls in large warehouses give us a call and we can give you advice, and may be able to assist with our bird removal service to prevent them gaining access into your building.

Barking Owls are a medium sized brown owl with white spots. The adults can sound just like dogs barking (so it may not be your neighbour’s dog after all!) Barking Owls can also make a sound just like a woman screaming, which is thought to be the cause of many of the tales about the midnight Bunyip.

The Southern Boobook owls are another group of owls with an interesting call. Their calls sound like “boobook” or “morepork” and can go on for hours. Mated couples also can make a softer “pot pot pot pot” sound.These owls are between 25-35 cm in length, brown mottling with unique pale-rimmed “goggles” around their eyes.

Barn Owls are known around the world for their lovely heart shaped white facial discs with brown edges and range from 30 – 40cm. Barn Owls are some of the least vocal of the owls, making irregular “skee-air” sounds.

Two other owls similar to the Barn Owl visit Brisbane, the Grass Owl and the Masked Owl. Both have broad facial discs like the Barn owl – but are browner in colour.

The rarest owl in Brisbane is the Greater Sooty Owl, a medium to large sooty black barn owl with a large oval grey face disc and large black eyes. Their call can sound like whistling bombs falling (without the final explosion). They tend to be very territorial and remain in the one area throughout their life.

One bird commonly mistaken for an owl is the Tawny Frogmouth. These are not owls but a totally different species more closely related to nightjars. They are the most commonly seen night birds. Tawny Frogmouths have grey mottled plumage, yellow eyes, large froglike mouths, and a loud booming call. Brisbane is home to the common Tawny Frogmouth as well as the Marbled Frogmouth – the browner and rarer cousin to the Tawny Frogmouth.