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Species Description

Barred Owl

Strix varia

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Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae


Mottled browns overall. This owl has large dark eyes, dark barring on the upper chest, and streaking below. 53 cm (21 inches) in length. The call of the Barred Owl is a series of hoots that sounds like the phrase who-cooks-for-you or who-cooks-for-you-all. When several owls are in an area, they respond to each other's calls. Some calls are similar to the calls of monkeys and they are sometimes used for sound effects in motion picture jungle scenes.

Life Cycle

The breeding season begins in mid-January, peaks in March, and extends through mid-May. Nests are usually located from 6-15 m (20-50 feet) high in a cavity or hollow of a tree, commonly a snag, in bottomland or moist forest. The Barred Owl will sometimes use the abandoned nest of a hawk or crow. The female lays 2-4 (usually 2-3) eggs that she incubates for 28-33 days. The male feeds the incubating female. The young are semi-altricial and fledge about 42 days after hatching.

Natural History

This owl prefers wet forests with nearby wetlands or fields. Like most owls, it is nocturnal, being active mostly at night. It forages either by hunting on the wing and swooping down on the food when it is spotted or by hunting from a perch. The diet includes small mammals (especially mice, squirrels, and rabbits), birds, amphibians, reptiles, and some insects.


Barred Owl Region Map The Barred Owl occurs all year throughout the eastern United States and the northwestern states. In the Southeast it is fairly common. In Georgia it is common in the Coastal Plain and fairly common throughout the rest of the state.

Conservation Status

This species is not listed as Threatened or Endangered in the Southeast.

Similar Species

The similar species that is most common in the Southeast is Great Horned Owl. These two species can be differentiated by their call and by the ear tufts on the Great Horned Owl. The Great Horned Owl call consists of several long hoots.