It all started
last year, the night of 2007 Wild in the City. I went outside
to aviary to get our Barred Owl for a short interpretation at
the event. We had decided to keep the birds out a little later
that particular evening so the public would have a
to view them. It was just getting to be dark as I stepped out
from the aviary with the Barred Owl on my arm. All of a sudden,
there was another Barred Owl hooting and flapping its wings in
my face! I was confused for a moment, wondering if I was seeing
double! I saw our owl on my fist and a second owl trying
to attack it! It seemed that the moment I realized what was
happening, it was over. Our education bird and I had both come
out of this attack unscathed: we’d just had our feathers a
little ruffled, so to speak.
later, two of the other naturalists were taking bring education
birds out to the weathering area in the morning. There is a
large tree that we pass on the way to the aviary and up in this
tree sat the wild Barred Owl. She sat ready to attack, perhaps
hoping to swoop down on our Barred owl as he passed by. The
owl, who we presume to be a female because of her large size,
didn’t get the chance to attack that morning. Just as she was
making her silent descent from the tree, she was intercepted by
a scrappy little Sharp Shinned Hawk. The interaction between
the two was amazing. Melanie, an LNC naturalist, was able to
capture some of the midair battle.
About a month later, after things had
quieted down a bit, I had yet another scuffle with this
ferocious feathered femme fatale. It was a regular afternoon
and at 5 p.m I was ready to bring the education Barred Owl from
the aviary to the mews for the night. Out of nowhere, the wild
Barred Owl swooped down and attached herself to the education
bird on my arm. It was a crazy ball of frenzied feathers and
beak clacking and hooting! I knew that I had to get this crazy
wild bird away from our elderly education bird. With one hand I
grabbed the wild owl and launched her into the air like a
football. I think we were all three in shock, but thank
goodness she flew off and no one was hurt.
seem to have decreased, but they continue off and on to this day
– more than a year later. Although most of the recent attacks
have been on the handlers rather than on our bird, these acts of
hostility are probably aimed at the resident Barred Owl. After
doing considerable research, I discovered another similar series
of attacks. A very hostile Barred owl in Washington State
harassed joggers on a hiking trail. The likely explanation is
that the owls are defending their territory during nesting.
have a long breeding season, which allows the female to lay a
replacement clutch if the first eggs are lost. Courtship
usually begins in February with breeding occurring between March
and August. The males hoot and the females give a response
call. Our resident owl is quite chatty; perhaps the wild owl is
answering his hoots. These owls are monogamous and use the same
nest year after year (if the nest is not destroyed). Perhaps
this is her territory and she is just here to stay; or, maybe,
our bird has a stalker for life! Either way, I kind of enjoy
her presence. She’s one tough bird and she definitely doesn’t
For more photos of the wild
owl, browse the picture gallery. You can also check out
Sitting in the Tree near the Outdoor Bird Exhibit.
Owl and Hawk Interact.
Resting and Waiting.
Just Enjoying the Scenery.
Article by LNC Naturalist Marielle Klemushin
Photos by LNC Naturalist Melanie Haut)