Wally the Crow Slayer


Folklore makes owls wise, mysterious, serving as omens. Their flight is silent and most wait until dusk to become active, which perhaps helps their mythology. Hearing them hoot or screech at night is magical and seeing them in daylight? A special thrill. When I was told there was an owl in “our” woods, there was only one thing to do!  Grab the camera and look for it!

It wasn’t difficult to find. The crows were behaving like neighbourhood watchdogs barking to announce and scare off a stranger. I looked around the area in which they were dancing and yelling and there it was. It was a Barred Owl.  It seemed young but it was on its own, perhaps for the first time? Past experience with these owls let me know that while they may fly and hunt during the day, they are more likely to find a daytime perch and just bide their time until light starts to fall, then take wing.  Though it sat quietly, the crows were raucously expressing their disapproval at having an owl as a neighbour.  They were relentless, perching above his head, flying around him. The owl would sit quietly, occasionally looking up at the source of the noise in the trees around it.


Approaching quietly allowed me to get quite close. I would take some photos, then would set my camera up on my tripod to record video, and then retreat, coming back to reclaim the camera and leave quietly as I could.  I didn’t want to be seen as a pest, I wanted the owl to stay in the area.




We named it, “Wally.” The first few times we saw “him,” he seemed to have a little down still mixed with adult feathers. A close look at his talons, though, made it clear that adorable as he was, he was a predator.

He returned the next day, close to the same area. Again, it was the crows that let me know of his presence and location.


The next day, he was back again! I continued to try to keep my fascination of him from being too annoying. The crows continued to be vocal as I set up my camera to record Wally while I went elsewhere. When I returned to make sure I was still recording something, he was gone! And all was silent.  Had Wally left?  I looked in branches, on the ground (in case he had seen something delectable scurry by) and it seemed as if he had gone.  But then I saw him rise from some underbrush with something in his talons.  At first I thought it was a rabbit, as we’ve been seeing them munching on our lawn.  But no, it was black and something looked like…a wing.  It was a crow!  The sudden silence of the crows was explained.


It took Wally the rest of the day to literally eat crow. Some feathers wafted down, a testament to the fact that bullying sometimes comes with a cost and that cost isn’t always to the one being bullied. The neighbourhood was blissfully free from the incessant and annoying calls of crows for several weeks.

Wally would return to our woods off and on throughout the summer.  Sometimes we saw him, other times we only knew of his presence because of various flocks of birds loudly scolding. One day, it was a flock of bluejays; another, it was chickadees and nuthatches.  Eventually the crows regained some confidence and would again verbally assault Wally, sometimes joining in with the other bird species, but they always kept their distance. No more yelling at him from right above his head or within easy grasp of those deadly talons, it was from at least a few trees away.

Wally had taken his place as a top predator in the neighbourhood and had earned the title of Crow Slayer. If only the local Bald Eagles had put the crows in their place when the crows ganged up on them, it would have been a much quieter summer.


  1. I’ve seen a few Barred Owls in this neighborhood but not for any consistent length of time. I was even able to get some good photographs of one. Usually I just hear them at night. A number of years ago I did see a Bald Eagle being pestered by crows at at one point it inverted, grabbed a crow, and then the crow dropped straight down into a parking lot. The other crows merely redoubled their harassment efforts. Perhaps the crows in your neighborhood possess a bit more intellect, or Wally being a consistent resident presented more of a deterrent.

    • Carolyn

      Maybe. We also had bald eagles and merlins, so maybe the attrition was too much. Just because I didn’t see the eagles kill any crows didn’t mean they didn’t. I should learn more about crow families. 🙂

      The eagle inverting must’ve been really cool to see. A friend was listening to a radio nature show talk about how eagles weren’t as manoeuvrable as the smaller birds harassing them while watching an eagle inverting to kill the gull harassing it. 🙂

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