David Lei is known for taking photos of Barry, a beloved barred owl who made her home in Central Park in October of 2020. On Friday, the owl died after a collision with a Central Park Conservancy maintenance vehicle. 

“For those of you who've not spent a lot of time with wildlife before, it’s a little bit like losing a loved one,” said Lei. “The owl isn’t something that we often get here.” 

Barry had quite the following. On Monday, hundreds showed up for a vigil by the barred owl’s favorite tree near the Boathouse in the Ramble to honor the wildlife that they said became their friend. 

“On a daily basis, people know this owl and she knows us,” said birder Wendy Jacobson. “It was a very special relationship that is sort of unique, maybe a once in a lifetime sort of relationship that you can have with a wild animal that pays attention to you.”

Birders we spoke with said they believed Barry loved the attention from its followers. They said she was able to teach people about a part of Central Park that is often overlooked. 

“I think a lot of people got to know nature in Central Park rather than some place just to ride through in a taxi cab or some place to just ride around in a loop — that there is a wildlife here and it’s very special,” said Jacobson.

But more importantly, those at the vigil said Barry a community of people together, especially throughout these tough times.

“We really built a nice community here where we would help each other and support each other and looking for Barry because it wasn’t often easy,” said Lei. “She flies out at night and it’s very easy to lose her in the dark, so we built up a nice community to support each other and keep safe while we tried to observe Barry.”