Conservation and spatial ecology of the Tasmanian masked owl

Many species rely on naturally occurring tree hollows for shelter and breeding. The combined practices of forestry, agriculture, infrastructure expansion and urbanisation, degrades the quality, cover and connectivity of mature cavity bearing forest, threatening the survival of cavity dependent species. The Tasmanian masked owl is a nocturnal bird of prey and Tasmania’s largest cavity dependent species, requiring large old eucalypts (diameter at breast height > 150cm) with deep hollows for nesting. Historically low estimates of abundance, a distribution that largely overlaps production forests and a paucity of high-grade habitat in protected reserves, saw the inclusion of the Tasmanian masked owl to the threatened species list, being listed as endangered in Tasmania and vulnerable at the federal level.

PHD candidate Adam Cisterne will discuss his research and progress. This research aims to advance our understanding of masked owl distribution, abundance and habitat preferences. It explores novel survey techniques, including the use of detector dogs, that aim to overcome poor detection probability and improve occupancy estimation. Dog surveys target indices, pellets or castings, that are associated with roosting and nesting. Non-invasive DNA sourced from roost/nest sites are developed for the genetic tagging of masked owls to estimate abundance and density of individuals.