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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Palace of Fine Arts Has New Tenants -- Barn Owls

Posted By on Thu, Apr 21, 2011 at 8:50 AM

click to enlarge They're cute when they're young.
  • They're cute when they're young.

Many people know about the great horned owl family living on Strawberry Hill in the middle of Stow Lake. But did you know barn owls -- the ghostly-looking birds with white, heart-shaped faces -- are making a family at the Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina?

Josiah Clark, who on Monday was part of a group attempting to break the record for spotting the most bird species in San Francisco in a single day, finished the evening with a quick visit to the Palace of Fine Arts, where he made his most spectacular sighting.

"During the last hour we just went along the Bay with the goal of getting to the Palace of Fine Arts, and rolled up to a place where the barn owl was roosting -- and we heard this baby call," says Clark. "We realized it was the call of a baby barn owl, which is actually the first confirmed breeding barn owl in San Francisco in quite some time."

click to enlarge There's more where that came from.
  • There's more where that came from.

According to a 2009 report on KGO TV, "Barn owls were once a common sight in the Bay Area, but in recent years their numbers have declined. In fact, they are listed as endangered species in seven midwestern states."

But Clark credits efforts by the National Park Service to restore natural plant habitat to the Presidio and the rest of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area for helping rejuvenate local bird populations that had been in decline.

The owl was one of the last sightings of additional species that day. Clark, along with his bird-watching partner, Dominick Mosur, came just two

birds short of their previous San Francisco record

of spotting 138 species.

After the 16-hour, 60-mile sojurn, the looming darkness made any more sightings unlikely -- unless the bird happened to be a white, night-hunting bird.

"As we were tallying up our list, we thought it was a good place to spend some time, and indeed, the adult barn owl flew in," said Clark. "It was out hunting rats around the restored Palace of Fine Arts."

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