Novice and seasoned bird watchers are flocking to Terra-Cotta Natural Park in Pointe-Claire to catch a glimpse of the now famous barred owl.
Eye-catching photos of the grey and white predatory bird have gained notoriety on social media, causing people to venture into the green space to capture their own glimpse.
“Some mornings I don’t see him at all. Sometimes I spot him in other parts of the woods,” Pointe-Claire resident Jane Giffen said.
Giffen walks the park’s trails daily with her eyes peeled looking at treetops searching for the now-famous owl.
A challenge for even the most experienced bird watchers, as the owl’s camouflage blends extremely well with the surrounding environment.
“For a long time I knew he was here but I hadn’t seen him,” Giffen said.
“Then, one morning. there he was on a branch in front of me. It was a exciting.”
It took Julia Scrase three times and a bit of help to finally spot the owl amongst the branches.
“I’ve been walking in the park with my head in the air three times and I couldn’t find it until today,” Scrase said.
A number of people can be seen actively looking for the barred owl in the park.
Many believe it is new to the area but, according to the Ecomuseum’s animal care director Patricia Presseau, the owls have been there all along.
She says since the pandemic, people are noticing animals in their area more often.
“They were there before. The barred owl is used to living in the city, so it’s not new, but it’s really cool to see. It’s an amazing bird,” Presseau said.
In fact, at least three different species of owls call Terra-Cotta Natural Park home throughout the year.
The barred owl is special as it does not migrate and will remain in the same hunting area of about 1.6 square kilometres all year long.
Unlike ravens or blue jays, owls stay perched for almost 85 per cent of the time, making them possible to spot if you can find them.
“It will be on the perch for long hours, so people can see it and observe them really well,” Presseau said.
If you are lucky enough to see the barred owl, it’s a real treat, Giffen said. “It’s a real privilege to see a bird like that.”
Presseau agrees, but stresses that while the public is more than welcome to observe the animal, people should do so from a safe distance so as not to disturb it.
“They can go look, that’s fine, but keep your distance at all times,” Presseau said.
“Please do not try to feed them. They are already good at hunting. They know what to eat and not eat.”
All the chirping online has caused a frenzy, and the city of Pointe-Claire has addressed the new celebrity with a page on the barred owl on the city’s website.
The municipality is asking the public to look and admire from a far.
“In order for the owl and other species to continue to settle in the Terra-Cotta Natural Park, let’s make sure that we are respectful of them on our walks.”
Presseau suggests bringing a good pair of binoculars and a telephoto lens if you want to see the owl for yourself.