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Barred Owl draws big crowd in uptown on Monday

Hoo you meeting in Uptown over lunch?

A barred owl draws a crowd on South Tryon Street. Both sides of the Monday encounter appeared to do plenty of gawking.
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A barred owl draws a crowd on South Tryon Street. Both sides of the Monday encounter appeared to do plenty of gawking.

Lunch in uptown Charlotte is often a hoot. On Monday, it was a literal one.

The unexpected sighting of a barred owl, perched on a low limb along South Tryon Street, drew a big and enthusiastic noontime crowd. After encountering the big bird, dozens of passers-by became instant photographers and videographers. One couple shot a selfie with the owl in the background. Another man pulled out his phone and could be overheard calling the Carolina Raptor Center, just in case the bird was hurt.

The owl looked no worse for anybody’s wear. In fact, it seemed a little bored by the commotion it caused as the camera phones snapped and whirred beneath it.

Wildlife sightings in uptown are not exactly common, but neither are they rare. Hawks often can be seen hunting the premises, and for several years, a camera atop a Wells Fargo building captured the family doings of some Peregrine Falcon parents and their chicks. In August, an opossum came trotting down north Tryon, scattering its competition for the sidewalk as it trundled along.

Barred owls are familiar sights and sounds around the city, particularly in older neighborhoods with creeks and big trees. Their characteristic call – “Who, who, who cooks for you?” – is loud enough to wake the dead. When two or more of the birds land in the same tree, the resulting jabber sounds like it came straight from the monkey pen of the local zoo. (Check out the bird’s full sound track on www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/barred-owl.)

For a full hour Monday, uptowners came, gawked and went on their way as the owl held its limb beside the Wells Fargo Atrium Plaza.

By 1:15, it had fluttered to a higher perch in the same tree. A car was double-parked below it. A man and a woman peered up through the limbs, taking a few last photos before driving away.

Michael Gordon: 704-358-5095, @MikeGordonOBS

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