Mystic, CT (June 14, 2012)
The Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center regrets to announce the loss of their
beloved barred owl named Tommy. Known as a gentle and affectionate
ambassador for the Nature Center, this barred owl had a place in the hearts
of many in the community.
“Tommy was the first bird of prey used regularly in our outreach programs,”
said Kim Hargrave, Director of Education at the Denison Pequotsepos Nature
Center. “He would bring awe and wonder to the faces of those who met him. I
found it inspiring to share a bit of his world with others.”
Even though Tommy was a common woodland owl, there wasn’t anything common
about how he made people feel. Whether it was visiting a school, library,
scouting group or senior center, Tommy was always ready to answer back in
the distinctive eight-hooted vocalization familiar to our childhood camping
days. “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you– all?”
The Barred Owl (Strix varia) name refers to the crosswise bars on the breast
and lengthwise streaks on the belly of this beautiful puffy-headed owl. In
the Eastern United States, it is the only owl with dark bluish-brown eyes.
Barred Owls usually nest in a tree cavity or in an abandoned nest of a hawk
or crow near red maple swamps or marshes. They will also use man-made nest
boxes. They prefer a diet of mice and small mammals, but will wade into
vernal pools for a frog, salamander or snake. The Barred Owl falls prey to
the Great-horned Owl, but more meet an untimely demise by vehicle.
And this is how Tommy came to be a beloved resident for the last 10 years at
the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center. In his youth, he had an unfortunate
encounter with a vehicle and sustained the partial loss of his left wing,
which prevented him from surviving on his own in the wild.
His rescuer was Doris Mager, bird rehabilitator and tireless worker for the
conservation and preservation of American raptors (birds of prey). Mager is
from North Carolina and founder of Save Our American Raptors, Inc. (S.O.A.R.).
She is affectionately known as “the eagle lady” to those who have been
fortunate enough to attend one of her programs around the country or here in
In the last few
years, Tommy had retired from outreach service due to cataracts. A smaller
enclosure indoors allowed him to find his food more easily and socialize
with visitors. It is estimated that the famed barred owl from Mystic met
over 250,000 visitors at the Nature Center and thousands of others during
Throughout the years, Tommy the Barred Owl was part of the Adopt-An-Animal
fundraising program at the Nature Center and benefitted from the generosity
of many supporters willing to help pay for his food and care. “We like to
think he had everything he wanted here at the Nature Center because of the
caring and compassionate staff and community in this area. We’re not sure
how to fill the hole he leaves behind. We do know what inspired people to
care about him continues on.” said Maggie Jones, Executive Director of the
Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center.
If desired, donations may be made in his memory for a new
raptor enclosure scheduled to be built by a volunteer timber framing group
Since 1946, the
Nature Center has provided visitors and the community with experiential
science programs that further the Center’s mission: to inspire and nurture
appreciation and scientific understanding of the natural world and foster a
personal environmental ethic. The Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center (DPNC)
serves 50,000 people each year with environmental science programs. Made
possible through the generosity and commitment of the Denison Homestead, the
Nature Center is a private, not-for-profit organization funded by admission
fees, memberships and contributions. With 10 miles of trails, live animals,
and a natural history museum, the Nature Center provides many rewarding
recreational and educational opportunities.