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New Neighbor Is Quite a Hoot

Exclusive Interview with North Georgetown’s Barred Owl

Illustrated by Maddy Herbst

The Gazette spoke with a juvenile female barred owl who is nesting on South Findlay Street. She is a gorgeous bird, 16-inches tall with a fluffy cream-colored face and breast speckled with brown markings, oversized eyes, and a curved yellow beak. 

Gazette: Owl neighbor, thank you for granting this interview. We’re hoping to understand you better and learn why you’re roosting in North Georgetown this winter.

From a branch high overhead, in a rich baritone: Helloooo hooooman. I’m living here, among you, and your trucks, planes, and trains because I needed some space of my own. You see, there is no longer enough forest for us. There are plenty of owls in this valley, and yet we like to keep to ourselves and claim large territories, so a single tree like this one, and the industrial environment around it, is what I can call mine. And you can call me “Barb.”

Gazette: Welcome to the neighborhood, Barb. I hope you’ve found it peaceful enough. How old are you, if it’s not impolite to ask?

Barb: I’m just about one year old. You can consider me a teenager, as us owls live only 8 years on average. I left my parents’ nest last August to strike out on my own. I tried living on Beacon Hill but it was too noisy and completely overrun with crows. Now I’m on this quiet street which so far boasts plenty of mice, rabbits and squirrels. Have you seen the extra-large Norway rats that frequent the alleys? Lots of crunchy little hummingbirds, too. North Georgetown is frankly an unadvertised buffet of soft-bodied delights!

Gazette: I’m glad you’re liking it here. You don’t eat cats or small dogs, do you?

Barb: I will if I catch one, but I can only carry about eight pounds while in flight. Your outdoor cats are my competition for mice, so I will dive bomb them and try to take them out if I have a chance.

Gazette: You’ve been swooping on your human neighbors, too. Are you hoping to take us out?

Barb: I’m trying to tell you people to stay away from my nest. You don’t seem to be getting my message. I don’t really want to tangle with you, but I could sink my talons into the back of your head if you need a more obvious warning.

Gazette: Oh boy, that makes me want to carry an umbrella all the time on your block. You view humans as threats?

Barb: All large mammals are threats to my nest and competition. Please respect my territory and hunt elsewhere.

Gazette: Message received. And if you’ll allow one embarrassing question, let’s change topics. Is it true that owls don’t poop?

Barb: Pardon me? I wonder where you heard that! We do poop, a lot, sometimes multiple times a day, both from our backend and through our beaks, although technically that’s called regurgitation. We have a second stomach that turns indigestible bits, like bones, feathers, and teeth, into pellets that we cough up. But we’re birds, and our normal poop looks just like bird poop. Why are humans so fascinated by excrement? Is there nothing more interesting to talk about?

Gazette: Is it just you up there in your nest?

Barb: To be precise, owls don’t build nests. We find crevices or other birds’ old nests to sleep and lay eggs in. But yes, it’s just me here. I am in the market for a mate, and when I find one, I’ll most likely move in with him. Owls mate for life, and though I’m too young to make owlets just yet, it’s never too early to pair up. Do you know any eligible bachelors?

Gazette: Not of your species, but we’ll be on the lookout for a capable male owl to introduce you to. What else do you want your neighbors to know about you?

Barb: The biggest threats I face, besides deforestation, are rat poison and cars. Could you please use less of these? Also, some humans hear our calls and think we’re asking, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?” Rest assured, we do not care who cooks for you. We are talking to each other, not to you. 

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