Look at this barred owl in Squamish

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Local has a close encounter with a barred owl that was being stalked by Steller’s jays.

Recently, local Travis Cesarone was camping in Squamish when he heard a bit of a ruckus outside his tent.

“A few young Stellar jays living in the campground screamed more excited than usual. I woke up and got up, ready to chase them,” he told Chief Squamish.

“Then I noticed what was causing this commotion. Stellar jays were harassing a barred owl perched in a young cedar tree less than a few dozen yards away,” he added.

“He stayed by my tent for a long time this morning. And I saw him again in the afternoon… The owl was watching the jays of Stellar chirping – waiting for critters in the ferns.”

Barred Owls (Strix varia) are one of the most common owls encountered in Squamish and are well known for their “who cooks for you?” appeal, Vanessa Isnardy, program manager with WildSafeBC said the Squamish Chief.

“Although they are mainly nocturnal, they can be seen during the day and can even be spotted hunting,” she said.

Although they have a keen sense of hearing, they don’t have visible “ears” like their cousin, the great horned owl, she added.

“They strongly resemble the much rarer and endangered northern spotted owl.”

Currently, there are only six known wild northern spotted owls left in British Columbia, according to Isnardy.

Isnardy said barred owls can be found year-round in Squamish.

“They begin to court during the winter and seek out ideal nesting spots like a tree cavity, an abandoned nest, or the top of a snag. Barred Owls mate for life, and cackling and calls from duos at night can be quite annoying,” she said. “In late spring and summer, they can have anywhere from one to five owls. Females are particularly defensive of their nests at this time of year and have been known to silently attack pom poms and ponytails from hikers and unsuspecting joggers.”

More owly facts

• Barred owls are relatively new to British Columbia and likely arrived in the early 1900s, with the first official record from the Liard River in 1943, according to British Columbia Breeding Bird Atlas. Isnardy noted that barred owls don’t migrate, but as trees grew, young owls were able to take advantage of new habitats and their populations were able to increase. Eventually, this led to more owls in the Pacific Northwest, and they competed directly with the already struggling northern spotted owls. They are also known to hybridize (crossbreed).

• Barred Owls also feed on Western Spotted Owls, which are also declining in number.

• Like most owls, barred owls eat a variety of small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and other birds. Some birds, recognizing them as predators, may group together and attack them, according to allaboutbirds.org.

Tips

Isnardy said if you encounter a barred owl, “enjoy the experience but don’t overstay your welcome or try to approach them, especially during nesting season.”

“If you see a young baby bird on the ground, move your pets away and give it a chance. Young owls are able to climb trees using their beaks and talons,” she said.

“Remember that any poison used to kill rodents can also affect their predators, so educate yourself about the different options.”

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