Above the trails of Reay Creek Park in Sidney, there’s a feathered disturbance.
The owl in question is a Barred Owl, a species that originated in eastern North America before expanding their territory westward.
“They’re relative newcomers to the area, arriving here in the late 1960s, but they will eat just about anything, from earthworms to other owls even,” says Ann Nightingale from the Rocky Point Bird Observatory.
“They’ve adapted very well to living in suburban areas. They do live in more wild areas as well,” says McGill University Wildlife Biology professor emeritus David Bird.
The Barred Owl has sequestered itself in the park, and over the last week or so, has been having multiple run-ins with residents in the area.
“I actually had this hat on and he came from the walkway and came over and tried to take my hat,” says resident Randy Eckert.
“I did hear of our neighbour who had to chase the owl away because he had a little wiener dog, and it was coming down to have a look at the dog.”
There are a few reasons why the owl could be so aggressive.
“They could be defending their hunting territory, which is a possibility here because the nesting season is long gone, and this could be a young bird,” says Bird.
“More often or not, it’s a young bird that’s attacking that’s more inexperienced.”
Other possibilities are that the owl is simply playing around or could mistake clothing or movement as being smaller prey.
As for how people can stay safe in the park?
“Don’t do anything that makes you look like a squirrel or other small animals, avoid looking like a mouse or an earthworm or making sounds like one,” says Nightingale.
So it might be wise to divert any strolls through Reay Creek Park until the Barred Owl gets a little more practice hunting its real prey.