Barred Owl
Strix varia 

by Amelia J. Tuck 

The scientific name of the Barred Owl, Strix varia, comes from the Latin word meaning “various”, meaning that they are very diverse.  This owl has also been known as the swamp owl, striped owl, hoot owl, rain owl, and many other names.  The Barred Owl is medium in size with grey brown as the color.  Their eyes are brown and their beak is yellow.  They are known for the sounds that they make during the daytime and as well as the nighttime.  This sound, which comes out of their little body, is very high pitched and sounds like “hoo, hoo, too-Hoo”.  Some people say that they sound like they are saying “Who, cooks, for-you?”  The mates will duet with one another but the male’s voice is deeper than the female’s.

Barred Owls are typically found in deep moist forests, wooded swamps, and woodlands near the water.  They require stands that are mature and can provide numerous nesting and roosting hollows.  The Barred Owl can be found hunting right before dark; the main prey that they enjoy the most is meadow voles.  They will eat other mammals, such as the deer mice, rats, squirrels, young rabbits, and bats, and amphibians.  When they are hunting they perch and find the prey they want and then dive on top of them.  Barred Owls are also very attracted to campfires and lights because of the large insects that are attracted to the light.  So the next time you are out camping in one of these moist forests don’t be surprised to see a Barred Owl come your way. 

Barred Owls have their courtship during the month of February, and breed between the months of March and August.  They will set their nests up in cavities and will also use Red-shouldered Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Squirrel, and/or Crow nests.  They lay about 2-4 eggs, which are white and almost perfectly round, with a slightly rough texture.  The mother will have to incubate these eggs for about 28-33 days.  The father will bring the mother food while she has to sit there.  Once the young are born they will leave the nest after about 4 weeks, but they still do not have the ability to fly yet, so they just crawl out of the nest to explore.  The parents will care for their young for about 4 months.  The Barred Owl has a life span of 23 years in captivity and about 10 years in the wild.  Most of the deaths that occur to these owls are caused by human hunting or by being run over by vehicles. 

Written spring 2004, as a service learning project for Dr. Gary Coté's Biology 102 class at Radford University.  Copyright Pathways for Radford.

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