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Merlin Bird ID

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    Barred Owl

    Silhouette OwlsOwls

    Barred Owl

    Strix 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 OwlRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    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.

    Other Names
    • Búho Barrado (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.

    • Cool Facts