Barred Owl

Strix varia
Barred Owl specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A large (17-24 inches) owl, the Barred Owl is most easily identified by its brown back, barred brown breast, and flat disk-shaped face with dark brown eyes. This species may be distinguished from the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) by that species’ conspicuous “ear” tufts and from the related Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa) by that species’ yellow eyes. Male and female Barred Owls are similar to one another at all seasons. The Barred Owl inhabits much of the eastern United States and southern Canada. This species is also found in western Canada and the Pacific Northwest, and isolated populations exist in the mountains of central Mexico. All populations of Barred Owl are non-migratory. Barred Owls may be found in a number of woodland habitat types across its wide range, including deciduous, evergreen, and mixed forests. However, this species is limited by its preference for dense, mature forests to younger and more open woodland, and has suffered in recent times from logging. Barred Owls primarily eat small animals, including birds, rodents, reptiles, and amphibians. Barred Owls use their excellent hearing to locate prey on the ground in order to fly down and capture it with its talons. Also, like most owls, this species hunts primarily at night, making it difficult to observe. Barred Owls are most visible roosting high in trees during the day, and may best be located while producing this species’ characteristic “who cooks for you?” calls between dawn and dusk.

DC Information

Fairly common permanent resident in heavily wooded forests, especially along rivers. Usually begins nesting in March, but eggs have been found as early as February 28. Female is larger than male.

Specimen Information

This record is for the male at the top left in the exhibit and shown above.
Date:  6/15/1886
Collected By:  John A Hamlin
Locality:  Montgomery Co, MD
Sex:  Male
Catalog ID:  108971
This record is for the bird at the top right in the exhibit (not shown here), also an adult.
Date:  11/29/1892
Collected By:  Harold B Stabler
Locality:  Sandy Springs, MD
Sex:  Male
Catalog ID:  127343
This record is for the juvenile at the bottom in the image above and lower left in the exhibit.
Date:  5/10/1911
Collected By:  Henry Kendall
Locality:  MD, near DC border
Sex:  Male juvenile
Catalog ID:  222482

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC51758 Strix varia (Northern Barred Owl)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC51759 Strix varia (Northern Barred Owl)