Owls at Hoyt Arboretum

Owls at Hoyt Arboretum

Baby barred owls have taken up residence in the Arboretum!

Yesterday during a walking meeting (yes, we work in the BEST place!), Ajah, Nina, and I heard a kerfuffle of bird sounds. Our attention drawn, we witnessed several crows flapping, and a much larger, brown bird swoop down to land on the lower branch of a tree. Walking back a few paces Nina spotted and pointed out a large barred owl resting on the lowest branch of the tree right in front of us. 

Mother Owl

The owl was resting with its back to us, but we were rapt, none of us had seen an owl at the Arb before! Even knowing barred owls are invasive, seeing an owl in real life is a special experience.

Before our eyes, in classic owl-like fashion, it turned its head all the way around to stare at us without moving on its perch. The three of us looked at each other with mouths open, astounded at witnessing this behavior in real life.

Spending several moments just watching this stunning raptor, we hesitantly decided to move on and met a young couple visiting from Denver on the trail. They asked if we worked here and when we said we do, they asked what they should see while they were here. We said “go see the owl at the end of this trail here!” Our excitement over the spotting was almost embarrassing.


The young couple responded, nonplussed, “oh yeah, we just saw three owls over there,” pointing up the trail about 10 feet away from us.

We rushed over to see for ourselves, but heard them before we saw them, screeching beseechingly to their mother for food. Following the sounds, we spotted the three owls were settled in a big leaf maple just north of the trail.

Baby Owls

These fledglings were much more active and curious, bobbing their heads around to check us out as we admired them from below. Two were tucked in together up on a high branch, and the other rested on a lower branch maybe 20 yards away from us.


Then, something amazing happened, and the two owls swooped down to join their sibling on the close branch, lining up perfectly in a row, almost like they were posing for Ajah’s iPhone camera. We joked that the were dancing and screeching like a boy band, singing bars from NSYNC’s “bye bye bye” as they bobbed their heads in unison. 

We stayed and watched a little longer, pointing them out to a family walking by, and eventually had to finish discussing the original content of our meeting. 

Following Up

The next day, I went out with HAF’s nice camera to see if they were still hanging around in that area. As I approached the bend, I heard them screeching as they had the day before and was ready to capture their beauty with my lens! I was able to spot two, but the early time of day made for less exciting behaviors. They were mostly hunkered down, but still magnificent! 

The beauty of Hoyt Arboretum never gets old!

About the Author

Rebekah Golden is the Communications Coordinator for Hoyt Arboretum Friends (HAF). Before her work with HAF, Rebekah earned a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona. She moved to Portland where she worked with partners to launch a business that brought increased awareness to local bees and pollinators.

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