Barred Owl

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Barred Owl
Strix varia

Provided by Jackie
Barred Owls do not migrate and can be found year round on the trail. Male and female are identical in plumage. They are medium sized, buffy-white with dark brown barring, with a buff-yellow bill, and dark rings around the face. The lateral barring of the throat and upper chest sharply break between the vertical streaking of the lower breast and flanks. The dark brown back is spotted with white.They do not have ear tufts. Barred owls have dark eyes, all other Minnesota owls have yellow eyes. The legs and feet are covered in feathers up to the talons. The talons are dark horn become black at tips. The tail is crossed with 6 to 7 sharply defined bands of pale brown. The dark brown back is spotted with white. They are between 17-20 inches (4350 cm) long, with a wingspan of 39-43 inches (99110 cm) and weigh 1-2 pounds (4701050 g).
Barred owl young are covered with pure white down. A second longer downy coat that is buffy at the base and white on the ends replaces this after a couple of weeks. The head neck and under parts are barred, at this point, with light brown; wing coverts and scapulars are barred also but with broader bars of deeper brown and white tipped feathers. By the first winter the plumage becomes more adult like.

A barred owl's right ear is higher than its left ear. Hearing from two different angles helps it pinpoint the location of prey. Other names of the Barred owl include eight hooter, rain owl, wood owl, striped owl, and the hoot owl. The lifespan of captive owls has been documented as long as 23 years and 10 years in the wild. The Barred owl call is described as "Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all?" or "You cook today, I cook tomorrow". They will call in the daytime as well as at night. Click here for Barred Owl sound.

Habitat & Diet

The Barred Owl's habitat is heavy mature woods with nearby open country for foraging. These vary from upland woods to lowland swamps usually near creeks, lakes or river valleys. The area should include densely foliated trees for daytime roosts, conifers or deciduous trees with year around leaves for winter roosts and the presence of large trees, at least twenty inches in breast-height diameter, with suitable cavities for nesting. Territories can very from 213 to 903 acres.

The Barred Owl hunts by waiting on a high perch anytime from dusk to dawn, while looking and listening for prey, which they catch with a short flight or drop to the ground. Or they fly through the woods and swoop down on prey. They may also hunt on cloudy days. It may fly even in full daylight when disturbed. Of the North American owls, it is the species most likely to be active during the day, especially on dark or cloudy days, when raising chicks.

Picture provided by Tom

During the day they hide in dense foliage, usually high up or roost on a branch close to a broad tree-trunk, or in tree cavities. They can be very aggressive when defending a nest. And when flying at and fighting rivals at the edges of their territory.
The Barred Owl has an extremely varied diet. Mammals include chipmunks, rats, squirrels, young rabbits, bats, moles, voles, shrews, deer mice, opossums, mink, and weasels. Birds are taken occasionally, including woodpeckers, grouse, quail, jays, blackbirds, ducks, doves and pigeons. They also eat small fish, turtles, frogs, snakes, lizards, crayfish, scorpions, beetles, crickets, and grasshoppers. Birds are taken as they settle into nocturnal roosts, because they cannot catch birds on the wing. They will also swoop down to the water's edge to catch frogs, other amphibians, and occasionally fish. Barred Owls are attracted to campfires and lights where they forage for large insects. Prey is usually devoured on the spot. Larger prey is carried to a feeding perch and torn apart before eating. They occasionally wade into water to capture fish.

Great Horned Owls, hawks, and raccoons are their natural enemies. In Minnesota the barred owl is a nongame bird, and can't be legally hunted or trapped.

Other owls to look for that live in Minnesota:
Barn owl
Boreal owl
Burrowing owl (rare)
Eastern screech owl
Great gray owl
Great horned owl
Long-eared owl
Northern hawk owl
Northern Saw-whet owl
Short-eared owl (rare)
Snowy owl

Nests & Nesting

The breeding season for this species is fairly long. Re-nesting is common if the eggs or brood is lost and even a third set is possible after the loss of the second set. Nest sites are most commonly in hollows of old deciduous trees, or perhaps one drilled out by the Piliated Woodpecker here. They may also use abandoned Red-shouldered & Cooper's Hawk, crow, and squirrel nests. They will also use a nest box. If a nest site has proved suitable in the past they will often reuse it. The Barred Owls pair for life.
Barred Owls calls year-round but during courtship males hoot and females give contact calls. As the nesting season approaches, males chase after females giving a variety of hooting and screeching calls. Males display by swaying back and forth, and raising their wings, while sidling along a branch. Courtship feeding and mutual preening also occur.
Picture provided by Jackie
The female then lays & incubates, every 2 to 3 days, up to four pure white eggs, almost perfectly round, with a slightly rough texture, for 28 to 33 days. During this time the male brings food to the female. Upon hatching the young are helpless, the eyes are closed, and their bodies are covered in white down.
Picture provided by Jackie
The young leave the nest at about 4 weeks. They are not able to fly yet, but crawl out of the nest using their beak and talons to sit on branches. They are called branchers. They fledge in 35 to 40 days. Once they lose their down, there is no difference between the adult and juvenile plumage. Parents care for the young for at least four months, much longer than most other Owls. The young tend to disperse very short distances, usually less than 6 miles, before settling into a territory of their own.
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