Last month, my column featured a Northern Spotted Owl my wife Beth and I spotted while walking our dogs (The Elusive Spotted Owl in Tigard, Tigard Life, Oct. 2019). It was brought to my attention that a Spotted Owl in Tigard would be rare in Tigard and was likely an inter-breed spotted owl or barred owl as opposed to a spotted owl of pure origin.
What I’ve learned by one local bird expert who replied on Next Door social chat sight and has decades of bird knowledge writes, “Barred Owls have a paler crown with brown scalloping vs. dark brown with small white spots. Their facial discs are paler than Spotted. Spotted Owls are very nocturnal and do not call except at night while Barred Owls often sit out in the open and call during daylight hours.”
The second local expert, also with decades of experience in this field, sent the following reply to Tigard Life. “We have several [barred owls] in Durham City Park, for example. The Northern Spotted Owl is a rare and declining resident of deep older-growth forests. Part of their decline is due to logging and forest fragmentation, but an additional factor is competition and even interbreeding from the closely-related but more aggressive Barred Owl.’ I also got confirmation that SPOTTED OWL is on the Washington County list.”
Distinguishing attribute markers for both owls, “Both birds have a classic, round owl face and dark eyes. The barred owl has creamy breast feathers marked with vertical bars of brown, while the spotted owl, like a negative image of that, is mostly brown with a Morse code of white dots and horizontal dashes” [as defined by Google search].
This is truly a teachable wildlife moment, whereas these regal birds reside within the city of Tigard!
You decide what type of owl is in the photograph captured by Elizabeth Woodard: a “spotted owl, barred owl, or interbreed owl.” One thing both bird experts had in common, they didn’t believe it was a spotted owl. However, without a front breast shot of the owl – it’s a harder call to make. Happy bird watching!
To learn more about the spotted and barred owl, contact the Portland Audubon Society on NW Cornell Road, including their rehabilitation center for injured birds.