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.