• Barn Owl
  • Barred Owl
  • Boreal Owl
  • Burrowing Owl
  • Eastern Screech Owl
    Eastern Screech
  • Elf Owl
  • Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
    Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
  • Flammulated Owl
  • Great Grey Owl
    Great Grey
  • Great Horned Owl
    Great Horned
  • Long Eared Owl
  • Northern Hawk Owl
    Northern Hawk
  • Northern Pygmy Owl
    Northern Pygmy
  • Northern Saw-whet Owl
    Northern Saw-whet
  • Short-eared Owl
  • Snowy Owl
  • Spotted Owl
  • Western Screech Owl
    Western Screech
  • Western Screech Owl
    Whiskered Screech Owl

BARRED OWL (Strix varia)

Barred OwlIf you’re ever walking through a North American forest at dusk and hear a wild hooting cry, don’t be alarmed. It’s probably not a monkey, but it just might be a Barred Owl! Barred Owls may be best known for their unique vocalizations, especially the unmistakable nine-noted hoot that is often translated to sound like, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?”  Besides that catchy call, these owls can be heard shrieking, crying, trilling, grumbling, and squeaking, especially during courtship. Sound exciting? It is! A pair of courting owls is certainly a sound to behold! The forest comes alive with the male’s chimpanzee-like calls and the females’ higher pitched responses.

Though Barred Owls are often easier to hear than they are to see, this is one owl that you just might be able to spot close to home. Barred Owls range over most of North America, and can be spotted hunting near cities, farms, dumps, and other developed areas. So keep your ears open and your eyes pealed for sign of this wild sounding owl!

Maps provided by The Birds of North America Online and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

  • Large grayish-brown owl with round, tuft-less head and barred upper chest.  Eyes brown; bill yellow. 

    Males and females: Look alike

    Young: reddish brown with pale chest and belly; light bars on wings and tail
  • Height: Males 48 cm (18 in), Females 51 cm (20 in)

    Weight: Males 632g (1.2 lbs), Females 801 g (1.7 lbs)

    Wingspan Both: 107-111 cm (42-44 in)
  • Range: in North America mostly east of the Rocky Mountains, south to Florida and Mexico; also occurs in the Rocky Mountains
    from B.C. to Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and California

    Habitat: mature deciduous/ coniferous forests with dense foliage and large trees; often bordering lakes, streams,
    swamps, meadows, or other open country

  • Quite varied: mostly small mammals like mice, rats, chipmunks, moles, bats, rabbits, and opossums; also birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates (like snails, beetles, and scorpions)
  • A very vocal owl; best known for its nine-syllable hoot described as, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” or “You cook today, I cook tomorrow”; also commonly barks seven notes rising in volume and ending with an loud, explosive hoot; frequently shrieks, cries, trills, grumbles, squeaks.

  • Nest Site: varied nest sites: usually tree cavities, but sometimes abandoned crow or hawk nests, nestboxes, or ground

    Eggs: 2-3 (sometimes up to 5) pure white, oval shaped eggs

    Incubation: 28-33 days
  • Usually nocturnal, occasionally diurnal; hunts from perch, sometimes hovers; can drag prey from slow water, catch bats in flight,
    and hunt by sound alone; swallows prey whole

Barred Owl Range Map

Barred Owl Range Map

Barred Owl Audio

Barred Owl Facts

Other Names: Northern Barred Owl
Family: Strigidae
Closest Relative: Spotted Owl

Conservation Status

Not globally threatened; status uncertain.