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Barred Owl (Strix Varia)

Have you ever seen a Barred Owl? Chances are if you’ve spent any time outdoors in North America, you have. These owls are one of the most common owls in the region. 

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at this amazing bird, from its physical features and diet to its behavior and habitat. So pull up a seat by the fire, pour yourself a hot cup of cocoa, and let’s learn about the Barred Owl!

Scientific Classification

Scientific NameStrix Varia


Common NameBarred owl
Other NamesSwamp owl, Hoot owl
Name of YoungOwlets
Number of Species4
Social BehaviorMates for life
Group NameParliament
PreySmall mammals, songbirds, reptiles, amphibians
Favorite FoodSmall mammals
Activity PatternNocturnal
Biggest ThreatHabitat destruction
PredatorsGreat horned owl
DistributionNorth America, Eastern United States, Canada, Southern United States
HabitatForests and open fields
Est. Population Size3.4 million
Conservation StatusLeast Concern[1]
Lifespan10- 12 years

Physical Characteristics

Height16 to 23 inches
Weight16 to 37 ounces
ColorBarred, brown and white plumage
Skin typeFeathers
Wingspan38 to 45 inches
Top speed30 mph

Barred Owl Pictures

Barred owls are one of the most widespread owl species in North America. They can be found in a variety of habitats and are named for their unique feather patterns.

barred owl on tree branch

5 Interesting Barred Owl Facts

The barred owl is an interesting creature. It’s typically found in dense forests range year-round. Here are some interesting facts about barred owls.

  1. Barred owls are known to be fiercely territorial once they have built a nest. They have been known to attack other owls, including great horned owls and fellow barred owls[1]. Barred owls are also known to attack other animals that get too close to their nests, including coyotes, raccoons, and even humans.
  2. Barred owls thrive in old forests with abundant prey and trees. Barred owls are found in North America, Eastern United States, Southern United States, and Canada. They live in forests with lots of trees and plenty of prey. Their preferred habitats are thick forests.
  3. Barred owls eat rodents but do sometimes hunt crustaceans like crabs.  Barred owls are usually opportunistic hunters, meaning that they will prey on whatever is available to them. This includes small rodents like mice and rats, as well as crustaceans like crabs.
  4. A barred owl’s right ear is higher than the left. This allows the owl to better hear what is going on around it.
  5. Barred owls prefer nesting in tree hollows. Barred owls are well adapted to living in forests and woodlands, and they usually prefer nesting in tree hollows. Barred owls also use abandoned nests of other birds, or build their own nests out of sticks.

Barred Owl Classification and Evolution

The barred owl is a relatively new species, having evolved only about 1 million years ago. Barred owls are very adaptable birds, and have been able to thrive in a wide variety of habitats.

The barred owl is a North American bird that is in the genus Strix. They are found in eastern North America, but have been introduced to the west coast of the continent where they are considered invasive.

Being a member of the Strigidae family these owls are considered “true owls”. It was first discovered in 1799 by naturalist Benjamin Smith Barton in Philadelphia.

Barred Owl

Types of Barred Owls

There are four types of Barred Owls in North America: the Eastern Barred Owl, the Western Barred Owl, the Florida Barred Owl, and the Mexican Barred Owl.

The Eastern Barred Owl is found in eastern Canada and the United States. They are typically gray with white spots on their chest. Their wings are barred with dark and light brown feathers.

The Western Barred Owl is found in western North America. They are typically gray with white spots on their chest. Their wings are barred with dark and light brown feathers.

The Florida Barred Owl is found in Florida and southern Georgia. They are typically gray with white spots on their chest. Their wings are barred with dark and light brown feathers.

The Mexican Barred Owl is found in Mexico and Central America. They are typically gray with white spots on their chest. Their wings are barred with dark and light brown feathers.

Related: Types of Owls (Full List)

Barred Owl Identification & Appearance

The Barred Owl has a barred, brown, white plumage, a round head with no ear tufts. Their beaks are yellow and their eyes are black.

Barred Owls typically measure about 18-24 inches in length, and have a wingspan of about 40-48 inches. They weigh between 1 and 2.5 pounds.

They get their names from the white bars on their mantle and back and slightly crescent-shaped barring around their head and neck.[2]

The barred owls call is loud and emphatic and vocalizations are usually comprised of eight hoots[3], or a two-phase hoot with a downward pitch.

Barred owl standing

Barred Owl Distribution and Habitat

Barred owls are found in North America and are the most common owl in the eastern United States. Barred owls live in a wide variety of habitats, from forests to open fields, but they prefer dense woods.

They are also found in evergreen and deciduous forests.[4] 

Barred owls usually build their nests in tree cavities, but they will also use abandoned nests of other animals or make their own on a platform of sticks.

Barred Owl Behaviour and Lifestyle

The Barred Owl is a common sight in North America, where they can be found in a variety of habitats. Barred Owls are opportunistic predators, and will eat prey smaller than them.

Barred Owls are known to cache food, meaning they will store food away for later. They’re skilled hunters and generally have no issue finding food.

Their mating patterns are generally monogamous, and both the male and female take turns to incubate the eggs. 

Barred Owls are territorial birds, and will often signal their presence to other owls by hooting. Roost selection is largely dependent on thermoregulation. Aside from their territorialism, they’re described as “mild and engaging” when it comes to people.[5]

Barred Owls are mostly nocturnal, although they can also be active during the day.

Barred Owl Diet

Barred Owls are considered to be carnivores, which means that they eat meat. They typically eat small mammals, but they have also been known to eat birds, amphibians, and reptiles.

Barred Owls typically hunt from a perch. They wait in trees before flying down and catching prey on the ground. They’re opportunistic hunters and will eat what’s easiest available. The barred owl’s diet looks a lot like other similar-sized owls’.

Their eyes are large to capture much light, aiding in their night vision and nocturnal hunting. Attacks are done from 20 to 33 feet away, helped by their silencing feathers which keep their ambush element intact.

Barred owl eating while on the tree

Barred Owl Predators and Threat

The Barred Owl is a predator that is native to North America. Its natural predator is the great horned owl. They’re also sometimes hunted by the northern goshawks, get run over by vehicles, and captured in traps set to hunt other animals.

While they may not be at the top of the food chain, Barred Owls are an important part of the ecosystem. One of the main threats to Barred Owls is habitat loss[6]. As forests are cleared for development or other purposes, the owls lose their homes.

They are preyed upon by other forest predators, such as birds of prey of canine and feline predators.

Barred Owl Life Cycle and Lifespan

Barred Owls typically live around 10-12 years in the wild but can live up to 20 years in captivity. They have a varied life cycle, which can be broken down into four stages: egg, nestling, fledgling, and adult.

Barred Owls lay one to four eggs per clutch, and the eggs incubate for about 28 days. Once the chicks hatch, they are cared for by both parents for about eight weeks until they fledge (leave the nest).

They reach adulthood at about one year old. Once they reach adulthood, Barred Owls are mostly independent, but may stay with their parents for a short time.

Breeding starts at two or three years old. They typically live to be about eight years old in the wild but can live up to 20 years in captivity.

Barred Owl Population and Conservation Status

Barred Owl populations are stable and have not been affected by the decline of other owl species. There are currently 3.4 million barred owls that are partners in life.

Barred Owls are considered a Species of Least Concern by the IUCN. Barred Owls are threatened by habitat loss as they require large areas of forest to live in.

Barred Owl FAQs

How do barred owls hunt?

Barred Owls are considered “sit and wait” predators, meaning they typically don’t actively search for prey, but rather wait for prey to come to them. They kill their prey by biting them sharply on the neck.

How fast are barred owls?

Barred owls can typically fly at 30 mph.

About Kaitlin Mullins

Birds are plenty, and they can be hard to keep track of. Thankfully, Katilin Mullins has taken charge of these. With plenty of free time spent bird watching, she’s a true expert on these intriguing animals.

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