“Hootie,” a barred owl has passed away after nearly 24 years of entertaining and educating visitors at Chehaw Wild Animal Park, as well as thousands of children all over the state. Barred owls are common in Georgia and are also known as striped owls, eight hooters and hoot owls.
ALBANY — It was a great run for “Hootie,” the barred owl that lived a life of relative ease, entertaining and educating people.
One of Chehaw Wild Animal Park’s beloved animal “ambassadors,” Hootie passed away Friday, nearly 24 years from the day Chehaw employee Don Dally found her in July 1988. Dally is now a volunteer emeritus for Chehaw Park.
“We don’t know exactly how old she really was,” said Kevin Hils, Chehaw zoo director. “She was found as an adult, but she adapted so well to people we think she may have ‘imprinted’ on someone previously.”
According to Hils, Hootie was “quite comfortable” with people and responded especially well to the higher-pitched voices of children and women. It was unusual, too, for an owl to “hoot” so readily for people. Hils said 25 years is “just about the limit” for barred owls in captivity, with wild birds living an estimated eight years or so.
“It will be a little sad I won’t hear her call when I leave the park at night,” Hils said.
Hils said Dally would take Hootie to Atlanta and “all over the state” as part of the Chehaw outreach programs, reaching literally thousands of school children in the course of her lifetime.
Barred owls are common in the Southeast, Hils said, and are known by a number of other names, including, the striped owl, eight hooter and hoot owl.
Its signature call sounds like: “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you?”