Tiwi Masked Owl, Tiwi Islands Masked Owl  |  

Tyto novaehollandiae melvillensis

Status: Endangered on the EPBC Act list

The Masked Owl (Tiwi Islands) is a large owl of more than 30 cm in length and 400 g in weight. It has a white to buff facial mask, which is framed by a black ruff that merges into a pair of thick furrowed brows; buff and blackish-brown or black-and-white upperparts; and white to buff underparts with coarse dark spots or, in some individuals, chevrons. The female is much bigger and bulkier than the male, and has larger feet (Higgins 1999). The better known subspecies of mainland Australia and Tasmania exhibit three basic plumage morphs (light, intermediate and dark), with a fourth white variant observed in males in northern Australia (Higgins 1999; Schodde & Mason 1980). At the present time, it is not known if the three basic morphs, or the white variant, are present in the Tiwi Islands population.

Government evidence of impact of climate change:

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  • Australian Government, Conservation Advice, Tyto novaehollandiae melvillensis

    Furthermore; it is possible that habitat changes associated with the development of plantations; spread of invasive weeds and alteration of traditional fire regimes may have reduced the abundance of native mammals (Firth et al.; 2006 Garnett Crowley; 2000 Woinarski; 2004); while feral cats may also be having similar impacts on the availability of prey species for the owls.

  • Australian Government, Listing Advice, Tyto novaehollandiae melvillensis

    The key threats to the Tiwi Islands Masked Owl are inappropriate fire regimes;which in turn has lead to changes in the vegetation structure the spread of invasive weeds on the Islands and the loss or degradation of suitable habitat through structural and floristic change.
    The priority recovery and threat abatement actions required for this species are o control weeds at sites considered to be important habitat for the species and minimise activities that promote weed invasion. o encourage appropriate burning regimes across the known range of the species. o undertake the activities outlined in the Northern Territory s national multi species recovery plan which includes the Masked Owl (Tiwi Islands).

  • The breakdown of traditional fire burning practices has changed the fire regime for the islands; which in turn has lead to changes in the vegetation structure.
    These fire regime changes are likely to have altered the habitat of the Tiwi Islands Masked Owl; in particular feeding habitat which is now less suitable for the species.
    It is likely that suitable habitat for the species has declined; and continues to decline due to the effects of changed fire regimes on the Tiwi Islands; exacerbated by the spread of invasive weeds.