Palace of Fine Arts Has New Tenants -- Barn Owls

Categories: Animals
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."

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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Peggy Roberts
Peggy Roberts

Artist has Crystal Ball and Foretold the Future!

An artist and cartoonist (official cartoonist of Molly the Owl on Ustream in 2010), John "VacaDude" Atkinson imagined Molly the Owl at the Palace of Fine Arts back in August of 2010 and drew her, a female wild common barn owl, in that setting during a Sketch Crawl in San Francisco!. You can see the tour he gives and a little information about the Rotunda and Column Pieces with four women peering into the box Fast forward to 14:00 to see drawing on the Ustream recording on his show, called VacaChat.

His blog which has cartoons of common barn owls and other interests is:

If you want to learn more about Molly the Owl from 2010 (San Marcos, CA), I have many links posted here:

If you want to see wild common barn owls up close from your computer, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, I recommend starting with the Oceanside Owl camera, but the six young owlets are in the process of fledging, learning to fly and hunt and will only be in or around the box for the next couple of weeks or so. Millions of people from over 168 countries are watching that camera (inside the box), and there is an outside the box cam and a "playground" cam which folllows the owlets as they learn to fly. Because of the popularity of Molly the Owl there are now dozens of boxes to watch - second clutches of owlets are "eggspected" - so fans can watch all summer, too!

From there you can find more information on all the cameras you can watch for free if you have the internet!

Alan Scherstuhl
Alan Scherstuhl

In the first photo, they're the most adorable thing ever.

But legend says that the owl in the second is the last thing you see before you die.

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