Whoo's in the tree? Barred owl causes commotion in Charlottetown

A barred owl caused a minor hubbub in downtown Charlottetown when some local crows tried to chase it away.

Feathers flew when the normally nocturnal bird perched outside a downtown building

A barred owl was discovered outside the Coles Building in downtown Charlottetown on Wednesday. (John Boylan)

Feathers flew in downtown Charlottetown Wednesday as a bunch of birds tried to oust an uncommon interloper from their tree.

John Boylan arrived at at the Coles Building where he works as the public services archivist for the province, to find several crows and ravens hopping around, which he thought little of at first. The crows can often be heard blustering in the trees, he said.

But when he arrived at his office on the fourth floor, he was told there was an owl in the tree.

"And when we looked around the different windows up here on the fourth floor we realized we could see a barred owl sitting on one of the branches," he said.

A year-round Island resident

The barred owl is a year-round resident of the Island. It has dark brown or black eyes, and a wing span of three-and-a-half-feet.

The owl's most distinctive feature is a couple of dark brown feather bars running down its chest.

Most barred owls live in the forest and hunt small rodents, or rob other birds' nests, eating the eggs and the young.

The smaller birds, including crows, will usually respond to the owl's appearance by trying to push it out of their territory, said Dan McAskill, editor of the Island Naturalist, the newsletter of Nature PEI, in a previous interview.

"They'll use call behaviours and the crows will respond and come in and mob the owl or other raptors," he said.

The owl did not budge

Boylan said he could hear the crows trying to scare away the owl for most of the day.

There were even some ravens and blue jays dropping by, he said.

The owl, however, remained unperturbed, and just sat on its branch.

"Every now and then one of them will fly by and just sort of swoop at it and that will go on for a bit and then they take a bit of break but then they always seem to come back and have another go at it," he said.

Boylan used the opportunity to take a photo of the owl, as the archives' windows were right above its seat in the trees.

Asked whether the noise was interfering with his work, he laughed and said he was used to the crows, which "can be a bit of an exercise on any given day."

"But this has been more of a racket than we are used to," he said.

With files from Jesara Sinclair