Rare owl spotted in Central Park becomes NYC's latest celebrity

Off a dirt path ascending the southeast slope of Central Park's Great Hill, 25 feet up a maple tree, sits an owl the Internet named Barry.

"Well, owls are mysterious," birder David Barrett said. "And they're not often seen."

Barrett founded and curates the @ManhattanBirdAlert Twitter page, whose followers have tracked this owl's movement for more than a month. On Friday, Barrett joined a gaggle of other birding enthusiasts who flocked to this corner of the park to train their binoculars and camera lenses on a large barred owl, occasionally preening, stretching and turning its head but mostly just snoozing.

"We've seen the barred owl catch prey during the day," Barrett said. "We've seen it catch a chipmunk, catch a robin."

In Central Park's North Woods and around its Loch, Barry finds an abundance of the prey it likes, doing most of its owlin' out after dusk.

 "We think it does a lot of its hunting early on in the evening," Barrett said.

A resident of the park since at least the beginning of October, Barry appears to like it there, leading birders to wonder how long she or he might plan to stay.

"Oh, it could stay the whole winter," Barrett said. "This is a great spot for it to be. It doesn't have any significant predators. It's got lots of prey to enjoy."

On Halloween, Birders observed Barry around the Loch with another barred owl, who might be the same barred owl found Thursday on the Upper West Side.

"So, that suggests it might be a mating pair," Barrett said.

Barred owls mate for life.

"But they don't stay together all the time. They spend most of the year apart," Barrett said.

Roosting a mile from his or her mate, Barry maintains this suspected long-distance relationship with the occasional visit. All of these owling activities qualify as a real hoot for birders on this island of brick and glass and steel, coronating Barry -- who appears mostly indifferent -- the city's latest celebrity bird.

"In an average year, we might get only one or two owls and they might stay only one or two days," Barrett said. "To have an owl like this stay for an extended period of time, generally in great view, is a real treat for birders."

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