The Barred Owl

The Barred Owl

(Strix varia)


They are a large (17-24 inches) owl with black eyes that look like they are fixed in two disks on it's round head which lacks any ear tufts. It has a mixture of brown and white vertical streaks on it's belly with mottled white, gray and brown on it's back and wings. It's bill is a pale yellow. Male and female plumage is identical.

They are a highly vocal owl. Chances are, if you've heard an owl call in the woods it was probably a this owl. They are said to sound like "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for all?" or "hoo, hoo, too-HOO; hoo, hoo, too-HOOOO". These owls are most vocal during courtship that begins in February. Although they hide among dense foliage during the day, it is not uncommon to hear them call during daytime or at night while courting. The female will make the same call, but her voice is not as deep or mellow as the male.

What Do They Eat?

Like most owls the they are basically a nocturnal hunter, although during nesting season they may be seen hunting before dark if the opportunity for food arises. Meadow voles (field mice) are it's main prey along with shrews and other mice. Other foods include crayfish, rats, squirells, baby rabbits, bats, moles, small birds, fish, frogs, snakes and large bugs.

Nesting & Mating

Nests are built in the cavities of broken branches on large deciduous tree in an older forest, sometimes close to a marsh or pond. It is not really a nest so to speak, but more a pile of of soft feathers or grass. They will use that same nest from year to year. Females lay 2 or 3 white, nearly round, eggs. Incubation typically lasts 28-33 days. The male will feed the female during this time. Once the eggs hatch, the male will bring food to both the female and the young for about 2 more weeks. After 4 or 5 weeks the young leave the nest and venture out to surrounding branches where mom will continue to feed them. At 12 weeks they will be able to fly and fend for themselves.

Barred Owl Facts

  • Great Horned Owls are their greatest predetory threat.
  • Their belly feathers are sometimes pink.Possibly the result of eating a lot of crayfish.
  • People often mistake them for a Spotted Owl.
  • Their wingspan can reach nearly 4 feet in some cases.


( click button below to hear the Barred Owl )


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