Yup, within a five-minute bike ride of my Capitol Hill apartment, barred owls are in residence.
Territorial, vocal crows helped me locate both mother and father in Interlaken Park recently. Barred owls are of a mammal-like bulk (21″ tall) and relatively unfazed by human presence–they will stretch, emit wisdom, yawn, gambol, sleep, be serene, faire la toilette, hunt, etc. within 10-15 feet of a person (in this case, me.)
There is consternation and controversy regarding this species. According to the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society:
The Barred Owl is non-native species to the West, including Western Washington. It has migrated across the continent into western U.S. forests from eastern states. Where the ranges of Barred Owls and Spotted Owls overlap, the Barred Owl has proven to be a more successful competitor that adversely impacts the Spotted Owl. Spotted Owl populations in Washington have been declining at a rate of 7.3% per year. On the Olympic Peninsula, the Barred Owl has increased five-fold in the past 10 years. Biologists observe that the Spotted Owl is being pushed to higher elevations on the Peninsula because of competition from the Barred Owl, which prefers lower forested areas.
I have mixed feelings about their presence. As an urban birder, it’s a treat to be able to hang out with owls, but this gratitude is tinged with an uneasy awareness of their effect on other species.
Clare McLean is a birder, writer and photographer. She combines these passions in her blog http://birdwordgirl.blogspot.com