Nature conservation

Threatened species

Eastern Grass Owl - profile

Indicative distribution

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The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Tyto longimembris
Conservation status in NSW: Vulnerable
Commonwealth status: Not listed
Profile last updated: 21 Jun 2018


The Eastern Grass Owl is a medium-sized, ground-dwelling bird (35 cm) with a facial disc typical of the Tyto owls. The upperparts are dark brown, buff and yellow-orange, with fine silvery spots. Underparts are white in the male, and buffy in the larger female, with sparse dark spots. The long legs are mostly bare and in flight protrude well beyond the tail, distinguishing the Eastern Grass Owl from the similar Barn Owl. When roosting the posture is tall and upright. The main call is similar to a Barn Owl - a hoarse, wavering reedy screech ‘ sk-air’ or ‘skee-air’. They also use a thin, quavering whistle that can be heard by clicking the icon above. [Note: The Grass Owl T. capensis has been split into two species and the Australian species is now known as the Eastern Grass Owl Tyto longimembris.]


Eastern Grass Owls have been recorded occasionally in all mainland states of Australia but are most common in northern and north-eastern Australia. In NSW they are more likely to be resident in the north-east. Eastern Grass Owl numbers can fluctuate greatly, increasing especially during rodent plagues.

Habitat and ecology

  • Eastern Grass Owls are found in areas of tall grass, including grass tussocks, in swampy areas, grassy plains, swampy heath, and in cane grass or sedges on flood plains.
  • They rest by day in a ‘form’ - a trampled platform in a large tussock or other heavy vegetative growth.
  • If disturbed they burst out of cover, flying low and slowly, before dropping straight down again into cover.
  • Always breeds on the ground. Nests are found in trodden grass, and often accessed by tunnels through vegetation.
  • Breeding season is highly variable and dependent on environmental conditions, but in NSW nesting most typically occurs in autumn or winter.

Regional distribution and habitat

Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
Brigalow Belt SouthNorthern Outwash Predicted None
Darling Riverine PlainsCastlereagh-Barwon Known None
NSW North CoastCoffs Coast and Escarpment Known None
NSW North CoastKaruah Manning Known None
NSW North CoastMacleay Hastings Known None
NSW North CoastYuraygir Known None
OceanHawkesbury Shelf Known None
Other StateQLD Known None
Other StateSA Known None
South Eastern QueenslandBurringbar-Conondale Ranges Known None
South Eastern QueenslandClarence Lowlands Known None
South Eastern QueenslandClarence Sandstones Predicted None
South Eastern QueenslandScenic Rim Known None
South Eastern QueenslandSunshine Coast-Gold Coast Lowlands Known None
Sydney BasinHunter Known None
Sydney BasinPittwater Known None
Sydney BasinSydney Cataract Known None
Sydney BasinYengo Known None