Historical information

The Powerful owl is native to south-eastern and eastern Australia and is the largest owl on the continent. It is found in coastal areas and in the Great Dividing Range rarely more than 200 km (120 mi) inland. An apex predator in its narrow distribution, the Powerful owl is often an opportunist like most predators, but generally hunts arboreal mammals, in particular small to medium-sized marsupials. It is a typically territorial raptorial bird that maintains a large home range and has long intervals between egg-laying and hatching of clutches. Unlike most raptorial birds, male Powerful owls are larger and stronger than females and so the male takes the dominant position in the mating pair, which extends to food distribution.

This example of a Powerful Owl show lighter brown coloured feathers and slight discolouration. The Powerful Owl has darker colourings and whiter feathers in real life. This example also show discolouration in the feet and they are brighter yellow in colour in real life.

This specimen is part of a collection of almost 200 animal specimens that were originally acquired as skins from various institutions across Australia, including the Australian Museum in Sydney and the National Museum of Victoria (known as Museums Victoria since 1983), as well as individuals such as amateur anthropologist Reynell Eveleigh Johns between 1860-1880. These skins were then mounted by members of the Burke Museum Committee and put-on display in the formal space of the Museum’s original exhibition hall where they continue to be on display. This display of taxidermy mounts initially served to instruct visitors to the Burke Museum of the natural world around them, today it serves as an insight into the collecting habits of the 19th century.


This specimen is part of a significant and rare taxidermy mount collection in the Burke Museum. This collection is scientifically and culturally important for reminding us of how science continues to shape our understanding of the modern world. They demonstrate a capacity to hold evidence of how Australia’s fauna history existed in the past and are potentially important for future environmental research.

This collection continues to be on display in the Museum and has become a key part to interpreting the collecting habits of the 19th century.

Physical description

This Powerful Owl has medium brown to dark grey-brown on its wings and back, lighter patterning on its chest lightening with white barring, and off-white front. The eyes are yellow, set in a dark grey/brown facial mask. The legs are feathered with yellow/browning feet and talons. The specimen stands upon a wooden platform and has no identification tags attached.

Inscriptions & markings


Metal tag:

wooden with no markings.