Breakthrough for one of the world’s rarest owls
Norfolk Island morepork owl chick. Credit: Monash University
Norfolk Island National Park rangers have confirmed the first Norfolk Island morepork owl chicks in more than a decade have survived to become fledglings.
The discovery of new chicks late last year was a significant moment for one of the Australian Government’s priority threatened species.
There’s only an estimated 45-50 Norfolk Island morepork owls left on the planet and national staff and researchers were ecstatic with the new owls.
Director of National Parks James Findlay said this was significant news for the recovery of the Norfolk Island morepork owl population.
“I’d like to congratulate Parks Australia staff, Norfolk Island community members and researchers for their incredible work over the years to rebuild the population of this very rare bird,” Dr Findlay said.
In the 1980s the Norfolk Island morepork owl declined to a single female. In 1989, she was successfully paired with one of two male owls from a New Zealand subspecies. The cross-Tasman relations meant that all subsequent generations of moreporks on Norfolk Island were now a unique hybrid of the Norfolk Island and New Zealand morepork owls.
“The fledgling owls are being closely monitored by Norfolk Island National Park staff and researchers from Monash University,” Dr Findlay said. “The health of the new birds continues to be assessed and a very close eye will be kept on them as they grow and reach full maturity.”
Parks Australia staff at Norfolk Island National Park have worked closely with the Norfolk Island community and researchers to help the species recover over four decades.
Threatened Species Commissioner Dr Sally Box said the Norfolk Island morepork owl was one of 20 priority birds targeted for recovery under the Australian Government’s Threatened Species Strategy.
In October 2019 the Australia Government dedicated $400,000 toward securing the future of the Norfolk Island morepork owl and Norfolk Island green parrot.
The Government has made an additional investment of $34,000 through the National Environmental Science Program for analysis of genetic samples of both Norfolk Island species. A better understanding of the genetic structure and health of the birds’ populations will inform conservation decisions by Parks Australia.
Norfolk Island morepork owl team
Monash University PhD student Victoria Sperring with young Norfolk Island morepork owl chick. Credit: Monash University