Living Bird Magazine
Barred OwlStrix varia
- ORDER: Strigiformes
- FAMILY: Strigidae
The Barred Owl’s hooting call, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?” is a classic sound of old forests and treed swamps. But this attractive owl, with soulful brown eyes and brown-and-white-striped plumage, can also pass completely unnoticed as it flies noiselessly through the dense canopy or snoozes on a tree limb. Originally a bird of the east, during the twentieth century it spread through the Pacific Northwest and southward into California.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Barred Owls are easiest to find when they are active at night—they’re a lot easier to hear than to see. Visit forests near water (big bottomland forest along a river is prime Barred Owl habitat) and listen carefully, paying attention for the species’ barking “Who cooks for you?” call. At great distance, this can sound like a large dog. Try imitating the call with your own voice and then wait quietly. If you’re lucky, a territorial Barred Owl will fly in to investigate you. During the daytime, a quiet walk through mature forest might reveal a roosting Barred Owl if you are very lucky.
- Cárabo Norteamericano (Spanish)
- Chouette rayée (French)
Barred Owls often take up residence in nest boxes in mature forests. Consider putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair. Make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young. Find out more about nest boxes on our Attract Birds pages. You'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size on our All About Birdhouses site.
- Cool Facts
- The Great Horned Owl is the most serious predatory threat to the Barred Owl. Although the two species often live in the same areas, a Barred Owl will move to another part of its territory when a Great Horned Owl is nearby.
- Pleistocene fossils of Barred Owls, at least 11,000 years old, have been dug up in Florida, Tennessee, and Ontario.
- Barred Owls don’t migrate, and they don’t even move around very much. Of 158 birds that were banded and then found later, none had moved farther than 6 miles away.
- Despite their generally sedentary nature, Barred Owls have recently expanded their range into the Pacific Northwest. There, they are displacing and hybridizing with Spotted Owls—their slightly smaller, less aggressive cousins—which are already threatened from habitat loss.
- Young Barred Owls can climb trees by grasping the bark with their bill and talons, flapping their wings, and walking their way up the trunk.
- The oldest recorded Barred Owl was at least 24 years, 1 month old. It was banded in Minnesota in 1986, and found dead, entangled in fishing gear, in the same state in 2010.