- A-Z Animals
The barred owl is a true owl found in eastern North America. They are often referred to as the northern barred owl or the striped owl but sometimes are called the “hoot owl” in an informal manner.
Initially, these owls lived only in eastern North America. But, due to their highly adaptive nature, the barred owl is now found in the western part of the continent as well. This has caused them to infringe on the territories of species like the spotted owl.
Size: Length: 16 to 25 in (40 to 63 cm)
Weight: Male: 1.032 to 1.790 lb (468 to 812 g) Female: 1.34 to 2.54 lb (610 to 1,150 g)
Wingspan: 38 to 49 in (96 to 125 cm)
Body and Coloration: These owls have brown eyes, which is uncommon among true owls, who have yellow eyes. They have a large head, a pale straw-yellow bill, and dark gray, black-tipped talons. The females are larger than males, which is the reverse of most raptorial birds.
Their overall coloration is grayish-brown or brown, with white spotting on their wings. The face is pale brownish-gray, with subtly dark concentric lines, and the tail is a mottled brown and white.
Barred owls are found in most parts of southern Canada and the eastern United States. These include Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Quebec in Canada and Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, New England, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas in the United States.
Some have even been spotted down in Mexico.
These owls prefer coniferous forests with dense foliage and large trees with cavities. However, as a result of expanding, they have been spotted in the hollows of trees found in deciduous and mixed forests as well.
The barred owls are generalist predators and opportunistic feeders, primarily targeting small animals that they can swallow whole. Their prey includes birds such as barn swallows, grouses, purple martins, and indigo buntings, as well as fish, frogs, lizards, mice, rats, squirrels, voles, muskrats, pocket gophers etc.
These owls live for 8-10 years on average. The longest-lived barred owl in the wild survived for 18 years.
The deadliest predator of the barred owl is the great horned owl, with the former re-locating whenever the latter arrives in its territory. Other predators include northern goshawks, who hunt the adults while climbing mammals like raccoons and weasels target eggs and chicks in their nests.
They are a monogamous species, mating for life. Mainly pairs are formed by newly mature owls, though sometimes widowed owls form new breeding pairs.
The courtship between two owls involves head bobbing and bowing while raising their wings and calling each other when perched together. Sometimes pre-existing pairs will undergo these courtship rituals again to establish their bond. These pairs will perform a series of mating calls including cawing, cackling, gurgling, and hooting.
Breeding pairs begin copulation between December and March, before which the female enters an inactive state during which the male feeds her. Nesting begins in March.
Normally, the barred owl builds their nests inside the hollow cavity of a tree, around 20-40 ft above the ground. However, they sometimes use pre-owned nests or human-made nest boxes. Prospective sites are scouted out beforehand by the pair, though who constructs the nest remains unknown.
Females begin egg-laying in March at intervals of 2-3 days. Generally, a single clutch has 2-3 eggs, though sometimes 5 have been observed. After an incubation period of 28 days, they hatch. For 3 weeks, the chicks are brooded by their mother while their father hunts and delivers prey to them. Once this time has passed, both parents begin foraging for food for their young until 6 weeks have passed and the juveniles become capable of flight.
Like most birds, the hatchlings are initially altricial. They develop white-tipped buff feathers at around 2-3 weeks which is when they begin developing their wings. At 6 weeks, they begin to explore, sometimes falling from their nests, leaving them vulnerable to predation. Eventually, after 10 weeks, they are ready to leave the nest. Juvenile owls become sexually mature at 2 years.
As per the IUCN, the barred owl is considered “Least Concern” or “LC”. Due to the adaptability of this species, their populations are on the rise.