TOP 5 ID TIPS: BARRED OWLS
Large round-headed owl
Dark eyes and yellow bill
Horizontal barring across chin
Vertical barring across breast and belly
Usually brown, white, and gray
© MELISSA GROO
BARRED OWL FACTS:
Large grayish-brown owl with round, tuft-less head and barred upper chest. Eyes brown; bill yellow.
Males and females: Look alike
Young: reddish brown with pale chest and belly; light bars on wings and tail
Northern Barred Owl
CLOSEST RELATIVE: Spotted Owl
BARRED OWL SIZE:
Height: Males 48 cm (18 in), Females 51 cm (20 in)
Weight: Males 632g (1.2 lbs), Females 801 g (1.7 lbs)
Wingspan Both: 107-111 cm (42-44 in)
BARRED OWL RANGE:
In North America mostly east of the Rocky Mountains, south to Florida and Mexico; also occurs in the Rocky Mountains from B.C. to Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and California
BARRED OWL HABITAT:
Mature deciduous/ coniferous forests with dense foliage and large trees; often bordering lakes, streams,
swamps, meadows, or other open country
BARRED OWL DIET:
Quite varied: mostly small mammals like mice, rats, chipmunks, moles, bats, rabbits, and opossums; also birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates (like snails, beetles, and scorpions)
BARRED OWL VOICE:
Very vocal owl; best known for its nine-syllable hoot described as, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” or “You cook today, I cook tomorrow”; also commonly barks seven notes rising in volume and ending with an loud, explosive hoot; frequently shrieks, cries, trills, grumbles, squeaks.
BARRED OWL NESTING:
Nest Site: varied nest sites: usually tree cavities, but sometimes abandoned crow or hawk nests, nest boxes, or ground
Eggs: 2-3 (sometimes up to 5) pure white, oval shaped eggs
Incubation: 28-33 days
BARRED OWL HUNTING HABITS:
Usually nocturnal, occasionally diurnal; hunts from perch, sometimes hovers; can drag prey from slow water, catch bats in flight, and hunt by sound alone; swallows prey whole
BARRED OWL CONSERVATION STATUS:
Not globally threatened; status uncertain.
BARRED OWL DISTRBUTION IN NORTH AMERICA
Maps provided by The Birds of North America Online and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
If you’re ever walking through a North American forest at dusk and hear a wild hooting cry, don’t be alarmed. It’s probably not a monkey, but it just might be a Barred Owl! Barred Owls may be best known for their unique vocalizations, especially the unmistakable nine-noted hoot that is often translated to sound like, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” Besides that catchy call, these owls can be heard shrieking, crying, trilling, grumbling, and squeaking, especially during courtship. Sound exciting? It is! A pair of courting owls is certainly a sound to behold! The forest comes alive with the male’s chimpanzee-like calls and the females’ higher pitched responses.
Though Barred Owls are often easier to hear than they are to see, this is one owl that you just might be able to spot close to home. Barred Owls range over most of North America, and can be spotted hunting near cities, farms, dumps, and other developed areas. So keep your ears open and your eyes pealed for sign of this wild sounding owl!
Barred Owl Nest Box Info
For nest box plans and more information, visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Project NestWatch website: