A barred owl visits bird counters in Lake View Hill Park. Photo by Friends of Lake View Hill Park

By Dan Tortorice
Friends of Lake View Hill Park

Barred owls just don’t give a hoot.

Their famous cry of “who cooks for you, who cooks for you-all” sounds like a friendly southerner transplanted to our beautiful county park on Madison’s Northside. The barred owl you see on this page joined members of the Friends of Lake View Hill Park (FOLVHP) for our annual bird survey in May. It joined 40 other species in the count that morning.

Barred owls are just one of many raptors living in Lake View Hill Park. They are named for the horizontal bars of feathers that seem to wrap around their throats like a cozy winter scarf. The feathers then turn to vertical stripes down the belly. Their call is higher pitched than some other owls and can often sound like a large dog barking in the distance. Owls are nocturnal animals but barred owls are the most likely owl to be active in daylight hours.

Other birds of prey in our woods include red-tailed hawks, cooper’s hawks, sharp-shinned hawks and some other owl species like great-horned owls and screech owls.

Because owls are so fascinating to look at and are active at night, they have been seen as having mysterious powers in folklore throughout history. The Greeks viewed them as wise, helpful and having powers of prediction, while the Romans saw them as omens -of death. In the Middle Ages, they were associated with witchcraft. Native Americans, some of whom probably lived on our hill, saw them as a mixture of each.

The autumnal equinox is also associated with a kind of death in that it marks the end of the growing season and the approach of fall and winter. Therefore, it makes sense to invite our owl neighbors to the Fall Equinox Drum and Dance Circle Friday, Sept. 22, from 7‒9 pm on the hill just west of the restored fountain. This celebration of fall will feature the Madison Drum and Dance Circle, along with a fire pit and some snacks. A Facebook event page will be created about a month before.

As the sun goes down, perhaps a certain feathered friend will decide to wisely attend another FOLVHP event.