Barred Owl

Being out in the woods as dusk begins to settle, one can sometimes be startled by a loud call that sounds like “who cooks for you, who cooks for you, oo aw.” This is the call of the Barred Owl, often called a hoot owl. Often this call will be answered by other birds in the distance.

Barred owls are large, stocky owls with black or gray barrings on their chest and face. These owls do not have ear tufts like the Great Horned owl. Barred owls normally live in large tree cavities, and prefer more mature deciduous forests where these trees normally exist. Barred owls seem to prefer forests around bottomlands, near rivers, lakes, or other water bodies, but they are found in upland areas, as well. Barred owls seem to be moving into more urban areas where there are more mice and other rodents, but they are limited by the need to live in large trees, and they are very prone to being struck by cars as they dive down toward prey on roadways.

Photo courtesy of the National Audubon Society

Barred owls are general predators, targeting mostly mice, rats, squirrels, and other rodents. However, they also prey on small birds, snakes, frogs, crayfish, and other reptiles. Barred owls are most active at dusk or dawn; their large eyes enable very good vision in diminished light conditions. Unlike many birds, barred owl populations are stable and increasing slightly and they seem to be well adapted to living around humans.

The barred owl is found throughout the east, from Florida to Canada, and in fairly recent times, has expanded its range across Canada and the Pacific Northwest. The barred owl occupies the same niche in the Pacific Northwest as the rare Northern Spotted owl. The more aggressive barred owl is viewed as a threat to the spotted owl where their home ranges overlap.

Article by FCFCDB member

Nature note for 3/31/2019