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Barred Owl

Silhouette OwlsOwls
Barred OwlStrix varia
  • ORDER: Strigiformes
  • FAMILY: Strigidae

Basic Description

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
image of range map for Barred Owl
Year-roundBreedingMigrationNonbreeding
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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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 lucky.

Other Names

  • Cárabo Norteamericano (Spanish)
  • Chouette rayée (French)

Backyard Tips

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.

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