Urban owls unite Clemson neighbors

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There are plenty of Tigers in Clemson, so it may be surprising to learn another animal has taken up residence near campus.

Instead of stripes, this one soars.

Marion Clement is a Clemson University graduate student who is wrapping up her thesis research that’s uncovered much more than scientific data on barred owls.

“I’m one of many out there who has this strange fascination with them,” said Marion.

“They’re really secretive. You don’t tend to see them often. You have to really look for them,” Marion said.     

Clement set out in February to learn more about why barred owls have taken up residence in urban areas of the Upstate.

The owls have long preferred to live deep in the woods away from humans.

“For some reason here in the southeast it’s really taken ahold and they’re starting to live in cities and suburbs,” said Marion.     

Marion’s findings suggest barred owls are attracted to the big, old trees that populate Southern historic neighborhoods.

However, gaining access to home owner’s private backyards was at first a challenge.

That is until Marion started knocking on doors and posting to social media sites, like NextDoor.

Marion says the response was unbelievable. 

Families jumped at the opportunity to help with her research and came away with hands-on education and a new understanding of community.

Chip Rouse is one of the homeowner’s who helped Marion with her research by allowing her to trap and tag the birds in his wooded yard.

Chip’s backyard is home to two adult barred owls he and his family have named Homer and Hiccup.

“She’ll do the hoo-hoo-hoo and a hiccup sound at the end,” Rouse said.

Chip and other neighbors are part of a connection between wildlife and people that Marion says is vital for the future of our environment and making smart decisions related to urban development.

Even with her field research winding down, Marion would still love to hear any of your owl stories.

If you’ve noticed barred owls in your backyard and you’d like to share some observations or if you have questions, contact Marion Clement by emailing her at clemsonowls@gmail.com.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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