The Owls of Pelham Bay Park

     Everyone wants to see an owl and Pelham Bay Park is probably the best place to find owls in New York City. Every year we find Long Eared, Saw-whet and Great-horned Owls in the park. In past couple of years we’ve had Snowy and Barred Owls as well. The Long-eared usually begin arriving in late November to mid-December, the Saw-whets are not far behind. We have resident Great-horned Owls here which have had several offspring.

Snowy Owl sitting on the light pole near the tennis courts at Orchard Beach in 2009. The owl was seen and photographed by Angel Cardenas. By the time I ran over to find it , the owl was gone.

This owl sat in the tree near Bartow-Pell Mansion in the park. He was there every day, for weeks, hiding in the tangles in an evergreen tree alongside the building. Whenever I met someone who wanted to see an owl, I brought them over to see this fellow. Saw-whets were very common here for many years. One year we had 18 Saw-whets in the park. In recent years there have been fewer. They have also become less accessible and seem to hide further up in the trees.

There are Great Horned Owls residing in the park. We can usually find them in the northern zone but this family was in the southern zone a few years ago. Note the owlet in the hollow of the tree

Long-eared Owls are usually the first to arrive in our woods. They’re usually high up, but this bird was sunning itself in the morning, one cold January.

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This Barred Owl roosted in the same spot for months. That year we saw no other smaller owls in the park.

Everyone loves to see owls and that becomes a problem. One person tells the next and soon there are hordes of people coming to see the roosting owl. People are noisy and sometimes inconsiderate, trying to photograph the bird up close. People bring dogs and sometimes rouse the owl by throwing objects at it or banging the trunk of the tree to get it to open its eyes if it’s resting. Eventually the bird is stressed and leaves. If you come upon an owl in the park, please be considerate and quiet.