Looking up, we noticed a preponderance of owls around New York City. Given the owl’s mythological and symbolic connection to wisdom, it’s not surprising to find them at the city’s institutions. Below are some notable owls we’ve spotted so far- what other owls can you add to the list?

1. Alma Mater at Columbia University

The Alma Mater statue sits imposingly at the foot of Columbia University‘s Low Library. Student legend has it that the first student in each incoming class to spot the owl hiding in the folds of the statue will be the valedictorian of the class.


2. The Owl on Central Synagogue

owl at central synagogue

An owl is perched on the facade of Central Synagogue in Midtown, on the 55th Street facade. It seems to fit in, color-wise with the deep blues and teals of the stained glass windows. We are told by the archivists at Central Synagogue that it was addd to keep the birds away.


3. Owls at Herald Square

Owl_HeraldSquare_UntappedCities_NashaVirataTwo owls flank the clock statue at Herald Square

Perhaps the owls at Herald Square are the eeriest. On the northern end of the statue, an owl-and-stars symbol is stamped on the door. Looking up at the sides of the clock, two owls are on either side. While this raises some questions, it’s at night that things start to get eerie when the eyes start to turn on and off with a flickering green light. Scouting NY and the Bowery Boys each noticed these as well.

herald square entrance owlOne of the Two Owls at the Entrance to Herald Square

The square itself is the location of the former New York Herald Building and the owls are a tribute to James Gordon Bennett Jr., the newspaper publisher. Gordon Bennet Jr. was so obsessed with owls, he kept several live ones in his office and even planned to be buried in a 125-foot owl-shaped mausoleum by the architect Stanford White (who was murdered before said monument could be built).

These particular owls were two of many that ringed the facade of the Herald building and Gordon Bennet Jr. had their eyes light up every hour at the hour. Today they flicker on and off continuously throughout the night.

Owl_HeraldSquare_UntappedCities_NashaVirata_2Only at night do their eyes flicker green


4. 719 Greenwich St

Owl_719Greenwich_UntappedCities_NashaVirataUnexpectedly sitting atop the entrance to 719 Greenwich Street

In the heart of the West Village, on Greenwich Street between Perry Street and Charles Street, an anonymous owl sits on top of a residential building. The existence of the owl is a puzzle to neighbors and owners alike.

Owl_719Greenwich_untappedCities_nashaVirata_2


5. 26 Broadway, a.k.a. the Standard Oil Building

Owl_StandardOil_UntappedCities_NashaVirata_2An irregular pentagonal structure, the Standard Oil building was designed by Thomas Hastings, part of the duo that designed the New York Public Library

The Standard Oil building, landmarked in 1995, is pictured above from the Broadway side. The building was not originally meant as a skyscraper however as the company grew and expanded, the directors commissioned Thomas Hastings to build a skyscraper facing both Broadway and Beaver st.

Owl_StandardOil_UntappedCities_NashaVirataThe owl of wisdom sits at the centre of the facade, which features a zodiac sky

In related aviary news, but less lofty of a character, check out our recap of an amazing “Pigeon-Related Landmark Tour” of NYC we went on! You can also check out how we tracked down the eagles of Penn Station and the original Grand Central.

3 thoughts on “Spot the 5 Owls of NYC

  1. Some of the plastic looking owls are obviously placed there to frighten off pigeons.( 719 Greenwich and on the Standard Oil building) Pigeons will rest on ledges and leave poop all over the place. Notice the spikes next to the owl on the 719 building.

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