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RVA Tails: Beware the Owls of August

Reposted from 2013 to incite panic and chaos.




Originally posted in 8/29/13:

Over the past weeks we’ve spotted several owls around the 5200 block of King William. Turns out that they are barred owls. These barred owls however have a bad attitude towards folks jogging near them (who doesn’t really?) on Devonshire and have been buzzing the runners and a few others for good measure. I thought it was just an isolated incident but here are just a few of the reports I’ve gathered from the Westover HillsForest Hill Facebook Groups.

  • He buzzed my head 2x last week, and got my ponytail this morning. Apologies to anyone on Devonshire who was disturbed around 5:45a to the sound of shrieking girls. – Amanda
  •  I was running at 6:30 am about 2 weeks ago in the 5200 block of Devonshire and one attacked my ponytail and almost knocked me over! Scared the heck out of me! No broken skin but freaked me out. Wearing a hat when I run now.  – Rebecca
  • Anyone had a run-in with by one of these guys recently? P.j. has been attacked twice in the past week on her early morning run! Peterborough area. – David
  • Now know of 7 individual hits on runners! – David
  • I recently posted about an owl attacking me Tuesday evening while jogging the trails in Forest Hill.  Below is a pic from my post showing the light scrape from the talons. – Tommy


Mitchell on the Westover Hills group pointed us in the direction of When barred owls attack from last year in the Washington Post of a similar incident.  Rob Bierregaard of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, makes a living study barred owls sharing space in the suburbs says that usually attacks are from adults protecting a young owl that has fallen from a tree. The problem with this theory is that by the fall young owls are already on their own. He does have another theory but I think it actually might be scarier than mom and dad being protective. It’s jr. just playing.

“Barred owls are so used to humans that they’ve pretty much lost all fear of them. But I can’t stretch that to explain why an owl would pop a jogger on the back of the head,” he says. “Using Sherlock’s strategy that after you’ve eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be true, the only thing I can come up with is these are playful young.” (Ever see the YouTube video of the young barn owl playing with a cat?)

I want to help keep my neighbors safe so I propose the following solution. It worked for the Yanks in 1914 it should work for H&H in 2013.


Photo by: Rich Meagher

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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.