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Name: Marcia 
Status: other
Age: 40s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 3/22/2004


Question:
A barred owl has attacked my family members--three times in the past 2 weeks. We live in a wooded residential area a few miles from the city. I do not see any nests in the nearby area. The attacks occur when we exit our cars after pulling into the driveway of our home. The owl has not used its talons, but it flogs us and makes a skreeching noise. My children are very afraid, and I am also. We have become prisoners in our own home after dark. The local conservation agent spoke with me on the telephone, but said they do not have the manpower to send someone to help us. Why is this happening and is there anything we can do to stop it?


Replies:
I studied and worked with Barred Owls for two years and the reason for this behavior is indeed a nearby nest. Real close! The female is just protecting its young from a dangerous predator just like you are trying to protect your children. BUT, you are a very dangerous predator in comparison. The survival of this species requires the parents to be vigorous with chasing away anything that represents a threat.

They were here long, long before we were and you just need to understand why this is happening. Until the young fledge the nest, this activity will wane until the young are able to move around on their own. Barred owls are protected by law, so your agency will not act.

You must be in North America, but depending upon how far north or south will determine how long this will continue. Southern owls start and finish the nesting earlier.

One thing you can count on is this bird will not actually harm you physically unless it occurs by accident.

Though I understand you do not have the appreciation of how lucky you are to have such a cool bird near your home, you should change your attitude to be fortunate to be living in an area that allows birds like this to nest.

Best wishes,

Steve Sample


I checked with our naturalist Royace Aikin and he said the following:

This is happening because the owls either are protecting eggs or chicks. No harm will come to anyone unless they approach the nest. This happens on golf courses very often with kites. I have never known anyone to be harmed by an owl or a kite unless they threaten the nest. My only suggestion is to buy some crow decoys and place them in high places to frighten the owls.

pf


There is almost surely a nest nearby. Barred owls usuallly nest in large cavities in trees, often in broken off tops of trees where the nest would be very hard to see. I do not know for sure but I think its likely that they have young, I don't think they would be so aggressive while incubating eggs. The owls will probably continue to see you as a threat as long as their young are on the nest. which might be a month or more. There is not much you can do to stop the attacks, but you really don't have too much to fear from them. The owl's talons are very effective tools for grabbing and striking, though, so it would be wise to be sure you have a good hat or cover your head when you think the owl might strike. A bright light aimed specifically at the place you walk might help. I understand the incovenience this causes you, but I would be absolutely delighted to be treated to such a show!

J. Elliott


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