Barry the Owl of Central Park dies

Barry the Barred Owl, whose stately presence and unusually outgoing demeanor made him a beloved Central Park celebrity, died in a collision with a Central Park Conservancy maintenance vehicle on Friday morning.

She was probably a little over a year old due to the color of her feathers, according to Robert DeCandido, known as “Birding Bob,” who guided bird walks in Central Park for more than 25 years. Birdwatchers had realized in recent months that Barry was a woman.

Over the past year, as Barry settled down on the branch of a hemlock in Central Park‘s Ramble, she developed a dedicated following of bird watchers, photographers, joggers and other New Yorkers who depend on it. of her to rejoice and comfort herself during a year of mourning for New York City.

Barry died around 2:30 a.m., when she “contact” with the vehicle of a two-person Central Park Conservancy maintenance crew, the conservation said on Twitter. The vehicle was driving through the park for an early morning inspection and clean-up, said Mary Caraccioli, the reserve’s communications manager.

The owl was most likely flying through West Drive in Central Park to catch prey, according to the conservation, and was not in the line of sight of the driver of the vehicle, which was traveling at 15 miles per hour or less, a declared conservation.

Staff reported the incident immediately, the conservation said.

“This owl meant so much to so many people,” said Eric Balcanoff, 32, a photographer who started taking daily tours to see and photograph Barry last fall. “Many of us are devastated today. We always knew she could fly away and have a family, but neither of us were prepared for it.

Mr. Balcanoff’s experience mirrored that of many New Yorkers: although he didn’t spend much time viewing wildlife, he was so drawn to Barry’s charisma that he ended up becoming an enthusiast. ornithology.

“She had such an adorable face and those touching eyes,” Mr. Balcanoff said.

Barry the Barred Owl was first spotted in Loch, a tranquil, verdant stream near the park’s northwestern tip, in October 2020. Bird watchers noticed his outgoing personality right away. As groups of onlookers gathered, she boldly rushed towards her prey – little rats, mice, birds and frogs. She wasn’t afraid to perch 10 or even five feet from her fans.

“We noticed his general lack of mistrust of humans,” said David Barrett, who manages the Twitter account. Manhattan Bird Alert. “She was very willing to have people around.”

Dr DeCandido was one of the first to spot Barry last October. He was leading a group that ran into her at the north end of the park.

He expected her to fly away after a few days and was surprised when she stuck around, he said. As the months passed and the boredom of his 40s prompted New Yorkers to observe increasing numbers of birds, Barry became a mainstay of Dr. DeCandido’s birding walks. He would sometimes make calls to the owls, get people to line up in the path, then watch them react in rapture as Barry rushed down.

“People really liked her,” he said. “He has become a cult of Barry.”

It became the longest large owl in the known history of Central Park and the first large owl to spend a summer there. She followed the famous mandarin duck, or “hot duck,” a famous bird that had previously stirred a frenzy among New York birders, and then disappeared.

Over the months, local bird watchers have been able to collect more data on Barry. By mid-winter, she made the switch from Loch to Trek, where bird watchers were able to get a better view of her hunt. In February, they learned that Barry was a female, when she probably started to think about breeding and people first heard her high-pitched hoot, which Mr Barrett measured using a voice spectrogram.

Local bird watchers have also noticed that she is more active during the day than is typical of owls; they suspected that she was not afraid of humans because she was so young.

Owls usually descend from their perches at a significant speed, so it’s quite common for them to collide with vehicles, according to Dr. DeCandido. But these collisions occur more frequently on roads where cars are moving fast.

“The risk of this owl coming into contact with this vehicle should be minimal, especially if the vehicle is traveling slowly,” said Dr DeCandido.

When the conservatory announced his death on Friday afternoon, there was a wave of memories and mourning from Barry’s social media supporters, and #RipBarry made an appearance on Twitter.

Ms Caraccioli noted that tragic collisions like the one that killed Barry are rare.

“We were heartbroken and we knew the community would be too,” she said.

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