Confirmed: A Spiritually Significant Owl Sighting on Gates Street



Bernal Heights is famously fashionable and always avant garde, but there has been a sadness at our spiritual core ever since the wonderful Great Horned Owls of Bernal Hill passed away in 2007.

Now, however, we are pleased to reveal that we have owl(s) living among us once again. Neighbor Lonnie reports from Gates Street:

Sunday morning a friend stopped by to say hello and greeted us with the news that he’d just seen an owl fly out of the tree in front of the house and take up a perch beneath the hedge next door.

We quickly grabbed some binoculars and a copy of The Sibley Guide to Birds and determined it was most probably a Burrowing Owl — “Only small owl likely to be found perched in the open in daylight,” according to the guide.

At first it was too far under the hedge and in darkness for me to get a good photograph, but after a while we noticed that it had moved out to the edge of the concrete steps leading to the side yard. Except — and I can’t be sure because I’d gone inside and didn’t see it actually move out from under the hedge — the owl on the steps appeared to be considerably smaller than the one we’d been looking at earlier, which leads me to believe there may be a pair roosting nearby.

In any event, our new neighbor stood there on the step a while looking at me and my camera and at a few people passing by toward the Gates Street stairs, before it turned and swooped down the narrow space between the hedge and the house, up to the top of the fence at the back of the yard. In a moment it was gone into the taller trees.

I’ve been told The Dakota Hidatsa Indians saw the Burrowing Owl as a protective spirit for brave warriors, which I’d like to be true on all counts.

PHOTOS: Neighbor Lonnie

11 thoughts on “Confirmed: A Spiritually Significant Owl Sighting on Gates Street

  1. Anyway, 10:30, the other night, I go out in my yard, and there’s the Werzner kid, looking up in the tree. I say, “What are you looking for?” He says “I’m looking for my burrow owl.” I say, “Jumpin’ Jesus on a Pogo Stick! Everybody knows that a burrow owl lives in a hole in the ground! Why the hell do you think they call it a burrow owl, anyway?”

  2. How wonderful! Thanks for posting this. It’s amazing to have burrowing owls in the City.

    I didn’t know the sad story of the Bernal Hill Great Horned Owls, and I wonder why no other pair has moved into that territory. I hope that won’t be the story of Glen Canyon’s owl pair when the tree-felling starts this month. The nest tree is spared, but trees all around it will be cut.

  3. Wonderful! I lived among burrowing owls for years in Davis. I love their grumpy little faces. And yes, one should be looking to gopher and squirrel holes, not to the trees. They’ll either share with the rodent creatures or take over abandoned subterranean spaces. So happy to see them here.

  4. After seeing owls on tv just the other night, I started telling my 4yo daughter how there are owls where I grew up (the south bay). I told her how I would see and hear them just about every night. She then asked if there are owls in San Francisco. I was stumped. I assumed there had to be, but I haven’t seen or heard any in the six years of me living here. This post answers that.

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