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Barry, New York City's Captivating And Photogenic Barred Owl, Has Died

Barry the barred owl stands on a branch as Robert DeCandido, known as "Birding Bob," leads a group of bird watchers during a tour in Central Park in New York City in November 2020.
Kena Betancur
AFP via Getty Images
Barry the barred owl stands on a branch as Robert DeCandido, known as "Birding Bob," leads a group of bird watchers during a tour in Central Park in New York City in November 2020.

Barry, a photogenic female barred owl who captivated the hearts of birders in New York City's Central Park, has died. The Central Park Conservancy announced that the owl was struck by one of the organization's own vehicles.

"Flying low, likely in search of a meal, the barred owl made contact with a Conservancy vehicle at approximately 2:30 a.m.," the organization that takes care of the park wrote in a tweet posted Friday. "Conservancy staff immediately reported the incident and Urban Park Rangers were contacted."

Tributes to Barry began pouring in across social media and in the park itself.

"Part of my heart flew with you," read one tribute that was written in chalk on the sidewalk near a spot Barry had frequented.

Starting in October 2020, Barry became a focal point for New York City's birdwatchers.

Her appeal to park-goers was rooted in her photogenic daytime displays. Although owls are famously nocturnal, Barry could often be seen splashing in the water or seeming to pose for onlookers who made their way through her home territory.

Robert DeCandido, a longtime New York City birdwatching guide known as "Birding Bob," told The New York Times that only one or two owls are found in Central Park each year — adding to Barry's celebrity mystique.

After being discovered Oct. 9 by a group of birders including DeCandido, The New York Times profiled Barry and Instagram and Twitter accounts were created in the owl's honor. Admiration from locals and owl enthusiasts around the world continued to grow.

On Friday, the Twitter account that bears her name said they were "utterly heartbroken" but thanked those who had followed her time in the park.

"Those who visited Barry often in person or watched videos of her online know that along with her beauty, her curious personality was a true treasure," the account wrote. "She deserved a long life of hunting, snoozing, and stretching, whether it was here in Central Park or up north with a family of her own someday."

Fans of Barry are planning an informal vigil for the owl Monday evening by "her old hemlock tree near the Boathouse" in the Central Park Ramble. The vigil marks what would have been the owl's 10-month anniversary in the park.

Despite Barry's tragic demise, officials with the Central Park Conservancy were thankful to the owl for reminding them how important the park is to the wider community.

"The barred owl's presence in Central Park brought so much joy, reminding all of us that the Park is a vital greenspace for all New Yorkers, including the wildlife that call it home," the Conservancy said on Twitter.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Dave Mistich is the Charleston Reporter for West Virginia Public Broadcasting. A native of Washington, West Virginia, Dave can be heard throughout week on West Virginia Public Radio, including during West Virginia Morning and Inside Appalachia. He also anchors local newscasts during Weekend Edition on Saturday mornings and covers the House of Delegates for The Legislature Today.
Dave Mistich
Originally from Washington, W.Va., Dave Mistich joined NPR part-time as an associate producer for the Newcast unit in September 2019 — after nearly a decade of filing stories for the network as a Member station reporter at West Virginia Public Broadcasting. In July 2021, he also joined the Newsdesk as a part-time reporter.