This barred owl has been sighted repeatedly in Pioneer Park. Photo courtesy of city of Mercer Island

This barred owl has been sighted repeatedly in Pioneer Park. Photo courtesy of city of Mercer Island

Aggressive owls in Pioneer Park, city of Mercer Island warns

Owls have a distinctive call described as sounding like “Who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks-for-you-all?”

  • Friday, August 24, 2018 8:30am
  • Life

In the past few weeks, a number of visitors to Pioneer Park have reported interactions with an aggressively territorial barred owl, according to the city of Mercer Island.

This species of owl is native to eastern North America, but began appearing in the Pacific Northwest about 30 years ago, and lives in wooded forests. Like all birds of prey, the barred owl is protected by federal law.

Barred owls typically roost unnoticed during the daytime, though occasionally will hoot with a distinctive call described as sounding like “Who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks-for-you-all?” At night they hunt small rodents, birds, and reptiles, often perching on a favorite tree before sighting prey.

These birds are territorial year round, though this may escalate when young owls are establishing new territory — this is assumed to be the case in Pioneer Park, according to a press release from the city. Although it is rare, barred owls have occasionally attacked runners or walkers on Mercer Island, swooping down silently and hitting people on the head or neck with their talons.

City staff have placed warning signs, and also suggest the following practices to avoid conflicts with these owls:

Avoid visiting the park at night, dawn, or dusk

Be aware and remove headphones

Cover your head with a hat or hood

Leave the area if aggression occurs

Learn more from this city of Portland webpage at www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/article/554309.

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