Barred Owl Facts | Anatomy, Diet, Habitat, Behavior

The barred owl (Strix varia) is only slightly bigger than the northern spotted owl and they are often mistaken for their relatives. It is a medium-sized grey brown owl with a rim which is not quite prominent. Barred owls are one of the owl species that are known for their distinctive calls. This is why owl is also called hoot owl, eight owl, striped owl, and wood owl.

Barred Owl Facts


  • The length of the adult owls measure around 40–63 cm (16–25 in) with the wingspan measuring up to 96–125 cm (38–49 in).
  • Barred owls weigh up to 500 to 1,050 g (1.10 to 2.31 lb).
  • They have 312 – 380 mm long tail.
  • Females are larger than the males.
  • Owls are recognized by their unique unmistakable appearance in that there are dark rings around brown eyes. They have yellow beak.
  • There are feathers all over its feet and legs.
  • It is smaller than the great horned owl but larger than the barn owl.


  • Over the past many years, barred owls are believed to have expanded their range covering much of the Great Plains to the forests of central and North America.
  • Yellowstone and Musselshell rivers are thought to be the historical range of barred owls back in 1873.
  • They are distributed over the north and eastern range of northern Alberta, northern British Columbia, southeastern Alaska, Washington, Idaho, California, and Northwest Territories.

Read More: Complete Guide to Owl Diet and Eating Habits

barred owl facts
Barred Owls ©Denis-Carl Robidoux/Flickr)


  • In the United States, Canada, and Mexico, barred owls favor dense woods as their breeding habitats. In the southeastern United States, they occupy many different habitats especially suburban neighborhoods.
  • Barred owls also feel home in some old growth forests because they provide a remarkable habitat-setting for these birds.
  • While barred owls and northern spotted owls share the same habitat, the former seems to be less tolerant of the latter. Barred owls are thought to be the primary reason for the reduction in northern spotted owls’ population. Sometimes they even kill spotted owls. Northern spotted owls are now disappeared in much of its major habitats.

Feeding Ecology & Diet

  • Barred owls are most likely to prey meadow voles, shrews, chipmunks, and mice.
  • Mammals include opossums, squirrels, weasels, bats, mink, rabbits, voles, and moles.
  • Most of the time barred owls hunt either after sunset or during the night.
  • They rarely feast on birds save for grouse, jays, pigeons, woodpeckers, icterids, quails, and doves.
  • Barred owls supplement their diet with salamanders, beetles, crickets, snakes, grasshoppers, earthworms, lizards, scorpions, and slugs.
  • They will devour the entire prey on the spot however when the prey is too large the owl will rip it off before eating.

Get to know: What Owls Eat in the Wild


  • Barred owl is a nocturnal bird. It seeks shady areas during the day.
  • They have got a loud voice such as “hoo, hoo, too-HOO; hoo, hoo, too-HOO, ooo” often heard calling “hoo-hoo, hoo-WAAAHH” and “hoo-WAAAHHH”. They are so much noisy that one could easily hear them before one could see them.

Reproductive Biology

  • Barred owls are known to build nests in tree cavities. Tree cavities are sometimes abandoned by pileated woodpeckers.
  • Tree cavity is 14 – 21 inches deep. The nests are lined with lichen and fresh green conifer sprigs.
  • Nesting sites are often used by several birds of prey including Cooper’s hawk and red-shouldered hawk.
  • Barred owls are less likely to migrate except outside the breeding season.
  • In the United States, females lay 2 – 4 eggs in the early January. The length of the eggs is 1.7–2.2 in (4.3–5.6 cm) while the width is 1.5–1.8 in (3.8–4.5 cm).
  • The incubation period lasts about 28 – 33 days.
  • Young owls will fledge out in about 4 – 5 weeks.
  • They don’t seem to have many natural predators.
  • In the wild, the average lifespan of barred owls is 10 years while in captivity they can live up to 23 years.

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