Thursday, April 9, 2015
From the Archives: A Barred Owl from Muir Woods National Monument
I get out to Muir Woods National Monument whenever I can, which isn't often enough. In 2008, we were wandering the trail taking pictures of the Trillium flowers, and enjoying the serene atmosphere when I noticed a small group of people gathering at the edge of the trail. It was soon apparent that they were looking at an owl off in the distance. I immediately thought the rare "Spotted Owl", since I knew how Great Horned Owls looked, and this wasn't one of them. I got these pictures (plus a lot of fuzzy other pictures; the forest was poorly lit for some reason having to do with giant redwoods), and wandered down to the park store to consult a bird book. I realized pretty quickly that the feathers on the back and tail were "barred", and not "spotted", and that it was streaked in front as well. It was a Barred Owl.
The Barred Owl, on the other hand is not threatened at all, and indeed has been expanding its habitat. It is primarily a species of the eastern United States, but reforestation and abandonment of farmlands across the midwest has allowed the owl to expand westward and come into direct competition with the Spotted Owls. It tends to win out, being larger and able to survive in a wider range of habitats. The first Barred Owls at Muir Woods appeared there in 2002, and according the Muir Woods Nature Notes, it is the southwesternmost occurrence of the species.