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Species Guide
A photo of a Barred Owl (Strix varia)
Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Strix varia

The Barred Owl (Strix varia), also known as the northern barred owl, striped owl, hoot owl, or eight-hooter owl, is a large North American species. This true owl of the family Strigidae is brown to gray overall, with dark striping on the underside and a well-feathered, rounded head without ear tufts. Its eyes are dark brown, and it has a yellow beak with a horn-colored cere.

Identification Tips

Adult Barred Owls measure 40 to 63 cm in length with a wingspan of 96 to 125 cm. Females are larger than males, a common trait among owls. They have a distinctive call often described as "Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all," which can be heard over considerable distances.


Barred Owls show a preference for mature forests, particularly those with a mix of deciduous trees and conifers. They are also found in bottomland hardwood forests and may adapt to various gradients of open woodlands.


Originally native to eastern North America, Barred Owls have expanded their range to the west coast, where they are considered invasive. Their expansion has been facilitated by increases in forest distribution.


Barred Owls are primarily nocturnal but may be active during the day, especially in overcast conditions. They are territorial and non-migratory, often using the same nesting site for many years.

Song & Calls

The Barred Owl is known for its rich repertoire of calls, including the classic eight-note hooting call used for communication between mates and territorial defense. They also produce various hoots, cackles, and gurgles, which can sound like "demonic laughter" or "cat-like screams."


Nesting typically occurs in tree hollows or snags, but they may also use abandoned nests of other large birds. Clutch size ranges from 2 to 3 eggs, with the female solely responsible for incubation. Young owls fledge at about 36-39 days old but remain dependent on their parents for several weeks thereafter.

Similar Species

The Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis) is similar in appearance but has a more spotted chest and belly, and is generally found in higher elevation forests in the western United States.

Diet and Feeding

Barred Owls are opportunistic hunters, preying mainly on small mammals like voles, mice, and rats. They also consume birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates. Hunting is typically done from a perch, with the owl swooping down on its prey.

Conservation status

The Barred Owl is currently listed as Least Concern by the IUCN, with a stable and possibly increasing population due to its adaptability to various habitats, including suburban areas. However, their expansion has raised concerns about competition with the threatened Spotted Owl.

Barred Owl Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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Barred Owl Fun Facts

Did you know?
Barred Owls rarely move far, with the furthest recorded movement being only 6 miles.

Barred Owls on Birda


More Owls

A photo of a Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus)

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Aegolius acadicus
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