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30 Quick Facts About Barred Owls

 Updated by Melanie Cruff on 02-20-2024

Barred owls are amazing hunters, beautiful animals, and a treat to see if you’re ever lucky enough. Wanting to catch a glimpse of these beautiful predators is not reserved for bird-watchers alone. You may find Barred owls have been right under your nose, but because their plumage is perfect for blending, you will never have known it. We gathered 30 facts about Barred Owls to help you learn more about this raptor and possibly even increase your chances of identifying one. 

30 quick facts about Barred Owls

1. Barred owls got their name because of the brown, horizontal bars on their abdomen and chest.

2. Barred owls have a few nick-names, including the striped owl, Northern barred owl, or even sometimes hoot owl or eight-hooter-owl. 

3. Their scientific name is Strix varia.

4. Barred owls grow to be between 17 – 20 inches length and have a wingspan between 39 – 43 inches.

5. Their eyes are tube-shaped, like binoculars, giving them excellent depth perception. Plus, large eyes help more light get in during the night, giving them better dark vision than humans. 

Barred Owl (Image: birdfeederhub)

6. Barred owls have excellent hearing but did you know they have asymmetrical ears to triangulate sound? One ear is located higher on the head and the other lower. This helps them use sound to pinpoint their preys’ precise location.

7. Barred Owls don’t have much of a sense of smell, and do not use this sense for hunting.

8. Barred Owls hunt small mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, even large insects and fish.

9. Adult Barred Owls are large with rounded heads, a gray face, mottled gray and white plumage and black eyes.

10. Barred Owls are common across the eastern United States, parts of Canada and parts of the Pacific northwest.

11. There are three subspecies of the Barred Owl with slight variations in size and appearance. They are the Northern Barred Owl, Southern Barred Owl (also called the Florida Barred Owl), and the Texas Barred Owl.  

12. Barred Owls live in mixed forests that contain large trees, and usually prefer habitat near water. Large tracks of unbroken forests are preferable since they provide a more diverse and abundant selection of prey. 

Image: OLID56 |

13. Barred Owls have a distinctive 8-note hoot, described as sounding like “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?” 

14. What could be a threat to these large owls? Other owls! The main threat to the Barred Owl is another large owl species, the Great Horned Owl. While these two species share the same range, Barred Owls will move to avoid Great Horned Owls. You aren’t likely to see these two owls in the same area.

15. Some people believe the Barred owl is symbolic of protection.

16. Barred Owls do not typically breed until they are at least two years old.

17. Barred owls breed between March and August, having one clutch of 1-5 eggs per year.

18. Barred Owls don’t migrate with the seasons. In fact, they don’t travel much at all, tending to stay within a 6-10 mile radius of their territory. 

19. They will mate for life, meaning one pair can be together for upwards of 20 years.

20. Barred owls use tree cavities or platform nests previously built by species like hawks and crows. They may add a few fresh evergreen sprigs or feathers, but otherwise don’t fuss much about adding anything to the nest. 

21. Young Barred Owls can walk their way up the trunk of a tree before they get good at flying. They grasp the bark with their bill and sharp talons, then flap their wings and “walk” their way up the tree. 

barred owl walking on mossy ground with a crayfish in its beak
Barred Owl walking with its crayfish prey | image by Deborah Freeman via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

22. These owls aren’t new to North America. Fossils have been found of Barred Owls in Florida and Tennessee that date back 11,000 years!

23. Prey may sometimes be stored in the nest, hung on a tree branch or on top of a broken off snag.

24. During the day, you can find these owls roosting on branches and in tree cavities, hunting mainly at night.

Barred Owl tips

Tips for Attracting Owls

  • Provide appropriately sized nesting boxes
  • Do not remove or prune large older trees
  • Provide a birdbath with a large basin
  • Create a yard with lots of plants and foliage, giving them ideal hunting grounds.

You can scare Barred Owls off by

  • Using strobe lights
  • Not attracting other birds, remove bird-feeders.
  • Creating loud noises
  • Keeping small pets indoors
  • Remove nesting and roosting areas and options.

25. Barred owls are considered somewhat of an invasive species in the Pacific Northwest. In recent years they have spread into this part of the country and are displacing spotted owls. The Barred owls are a larger more aggressive species, disrupting the spotted owls nesting. That, and their competition for food are driving spotted owls out, who were already threatened due to habitat loss.

26. Barred owls can pass completely unnoticed as it flies. They are close to noiseless. Barred Owls are able to move at slower speeds without flapping, and the structure of their feathers acts as a silencer. They have comb-like serrations on their wing feathers that break up the air that creates the typical swoosh sound.


27. The Barred owls’ conservation status is ranked as leased-concerned, with their population growing in numbers.

28. Owls hoot to claim territory, communicate with their mate, and signal danger. During courtship, a mated pair will perform an impressive duet with a loud series of hoots, gurgles and cackles. 

29. Barred Owls will maintain the same territory and multiple nesting sites for many years.

30. Barred owls bob their head because they can not move their eyes in their sockets like humans can. Rather than move their eyes, they move their whole head when they need to better pinpoint an object.