It’s a hoot! Urban owl sightings in Victoria on the rise

It's a hoot! Urban owl sightings in Victoria on the rise

WATCH: From the library atrium art sculpture to the causeway in front of the B.C. Legislature, urban owl sightings are on the rise. Tess van Straaten reports.

Look up, way up, and you might be lucky enough to spot an owl in Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park.

“I’ve seen them a lot near lover’s lane and I have lots of pictures of them,” says Jono Moore, who walks through the park to get to work.

Moore says he sees barred owls several times a month and has also shot some amazing video of them.

They’re neat,” says Moore. “They’re not too concerned with people and you can get quite close to them.”

The barred owls nest in the park and can sometimes be seen going after Eastern grey squirrels, as well as mice and songbirds. But no one expected to see one hitching a ride on the moving art sculpture at the downtown Victoria library ? yet that’s exactly what happened on Saturday.

A barred owl, calmly perched on the metal sculpture’s outer ring, caused quite a hoot below as people gathered to snap photos of the rare sight.

“To see it on a moving sculpture, that’s quite unique,” says Alanah Nasadyk of the Habitat Acquisition Trust.

Owl experts say it’s highly unusual but given that the numbers of barred owls are growing, sightings in the city are becoming more and more common.

“Vancouver Island wasn’t normally a place you would find them,” explains Nasadyk. “Their range is expanding and they seem to do really well in urban areas, compared to other owls.”

The urban owl spotted at the downtown library branch is believed to be one that was born in Beacon Hill Park almost three years ago and is affectionately called “Tuffy”. Facebook posters say he was hanging out on Courtenay Street all day Friday and again on Monday.

A barred owl was also spotted perched on the Bastion Square parkade sign last month and posing in front of the B.C. Legislature, as well as on fence posts and signs throughout downtown.

Sadly, the increase in barred owls may be coming at the expense of another owl ? the endangered coastal western screech owl. Once a common sight in Victoria, their numbers have fallen by more than 90 per cent in the last decade.

“As we’re expanding our human habitat and altering the landscape, unfortunately, there are winners and losers in that situation,” says Nasadyk. We’re doing all we can to try and prevent that.”

The Habitat Acquisition Trust will be counting western screech owls next month.

And as you walk through downtown, especially urban parks, keep an eye out for Tuffy and his friends.

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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