Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Best Neighbor You Will Ever Have

I have been working at the World Bird Sanctuary now for only one month as an office coordinator, and I cannot even start to count the number of calls I have answered in regards to people finding Barred Owls (Strix varia) hanging out in their yards.  The statement I keep hearing is, “I don’t know what to do about it.  I’m afraid he might try to eat my small dog.”

I always tell the callers to not worry about their dogs and enjoy the sight!  Even though we cannot predict what a wild animal is going to do, chances are, it’s not in your backyard to make your dog his lunch.

Our neighbor, a Barred Owl (photo: Erica O'Donnell)

I have a wooded area in my backyard and I keep two bird feeders there.  About two years ago I noticed a new bird that was attracted to my bird feeder.  It was a big Barred Owl.  I was mesmerized!  He was big and beautiful!

Since I did not have much knowledge about owls at that moment in time, I did some investigating to educate myself.  I wasn’t worried about the safety of my own animals since my cat is indoors and my dog is a 70 pound golden retriever.  But, my next door neighbors have a tiny dog that hangs out on their deck regularly.  I had the same questions other people have. “Are small pets safe around this animal?  Will it try to attack me or a child in the neighborhood?”

The truth is you are lucky if you have an owl living around your house.  Since my new “neighbor” moved in, the rodent population has lowered significantly in my neighborhood.  Rodents are a delicatessen to owls.  It turns out the owl isn’t hanging around my bird feeder to eat the other birds (although they do stay away when he makes his presence).  He has his eyes on the mice and other small rodents running around the bird feeder.

Over the years, our resident owl has become a part of our family.  He sits high above in a tree while we are sitting on the back porch with the dog.  We observe and appreciate his beauty and grace.  Even when he is not in our sight, he still lets it be known that he is around by the loud, musical hoot that he makes deep in the woods, late at night, and into the morning.  He truly is remarkable.

Submitted by Erica O’Donnell, World Bird Sanctuary Education Coordinator

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