Barred Owl (Strix varia)
The Barred Owl is a large owl. The facial disc is pale greyish-brown with darker concentric lines. The rim is not very prominent. Eyes are dark brown to blackish-brown. The cere is pale horn, the bill pale yellowish with a slight greenish tint. The sides of the head and neck are barred light and dark. The upperparts are brown to greyish-brown, scalloped with whitish bars on the crown, back and mantle. Wing-coverts are spotted whitish. Flight feathers are barred whitish-buff and brown. The tail is brown or greyish-brown with 4-5 whitish bars. Underparts are pale greyish-brown to dirty whitish. The upper breast and foreneck are densely barred light and dark. The rest of the underparts are boldly streaked dark to rufous-brown. Tarsi are feathered, and toes are almost totally feathered, the bare parts being yellowish-grey. Claws are dark horn with blackish tips.
They have a body length of 17-19 inches, wingspan of 39-43 inches and a body weight of 17-37 ounces.
Barred Owls live in large, mature forests made up of both deciduous trees and evergreens, often near water. They nest in tree cavities. In the Northwest, Barred Owls have moved into old-growth coniferous forest, where they compete with the threatened Spotted Owl. Quite often they can be spotted resting on branches about 8-12 feet off the ground giving many opportunities to get those great Barred Owl photographs we all hope to get.
Barred Owls eat many kinds of small animals, including squirrels, chipmunks, mice, voles, rabbits, birds (up to the size of grouse), amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates. They hunt by sitting and waiting on an elevated perch, while scanning all around for prey with their sharp eyes and ears. They may perch over water and drop down to catch fish, or even wade in shallow water in pursuit of fish and crayfish. Though they do most of their hunting right after sunset and during the night, sometimes they feed during the day. Barred Owls may temporarily store their prey in a nest, in the crook of a branch, or at the top of a snag. They swallow small prey whole and large prey in pieces, eating the head first and then the body.
The distinctive Barred Owl call “hoo, hoo, too-HOO; hoo, hoo, too-HOO, ooo” which is often phrased as “Who, cooks, for-you? Who, cooks, for-you, all?” can be heard all year but they are more responsive in the breeding season in February. Barred Owls nest in tree cavities but will also use abandoned hawk, squirrel or crow’s nests. They usually have 2-4 white eggs that are perfectly round and rough textured. These are incubated for 28-33 days. Barred Owls have a longer breeding season so if one clutch or brood isn’t successful they can lay another clutch. The young leave the nest after about 4 weeks but as of yet cannot fly. They use their beak and talons to crawl out of the nest to sit on branches. This can be a great time to get some owlet photographs. But keep your distance so not too frighten the young and bring in the protective adults. The young fledge in 35-40 days and once they lose their downy fuzz their isn’t any difference between the feather patterns of the adult and juveniles.
The Great Horned Owl is the most serious predatory threat to the Barred Owl. Quite often each will predate the young of the other. Although the two species often live in the same areas, the smaller Barred Owl will move to another part of its territory when a Great Horned Owl is nearby.
It is always a thrill to see and photograph Barred owls. We hope you enjoy looking at our Barred Owl pictures as much as we enjoyed taking them.
References: Cornell Labs of Ornithology, The Owl Pages