Lake Milton Raptor Center

Barred Owl

Strix varia

Barred Owl Barred Owl Barred Owl

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Strigiformes
  • Family: Strigidae
  • Genus: Strix
  • Species: Strix varia
  • Geographic Range

    Nearctic: Strix varia is found throughout southwestern Canada, Washington, Oregon and northern California. Its range extends throughout the eastern United States including Florida and Texas.

    Physical Characteristics

    Mass: 630 to 800 g.

    Strix varia is a large, round-headed woodland owl with a grey-white facial disc. Its plumage is grey-brown with buff-white edges and subterminal bars. Barred owls have brown eyes and lack ear tufts. The neck and upper breast have transverse barring and the belly contains vertical brown streaks. Strix variais dimorphic in body size. Males are 48 cm in length and have a mean weight of 630 g, whereas females are 51cm in length and have an average weight of 800g. The wingspan of Strix varia is between 107 and 111 cm. Juveniles are a red-brown color with buff barring on the neck. Strix varia is a very vocal species with an easily recognizable 9 syllable call; "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?"

    Natural History

    Food Habits

    Strix varia is carnivorous and feeds on small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. Without exception Strix varia hunts prey that can be swallowed whole. Hunting is mainly done from a perch. Once prey is spotted, the barred owl swoops down upon prey and grabs the prey with sharp talons.


    Breeding season occurs from December to March. Strix varia is monogamous, pairing for life. Although the barred owl prefers to nest in tree cavities, this species is known to use empty hawk nests, crows nests or squirrel nests. A clutch of two to three eggs will be laid in the nest; the female incubates the altricial eggs for 28-33 days. While the female incubates eggs the male will hunt for her. Nestlings are brooded by the female for three weeks, and fed by the male. Nestlings' eyes open after seven days, and at four to five weeks the young will leave the nest and venture to adjacent branches. At six weeks old the young will learn to fly. Parental care is exhibited for up to six months in Strix varia.


    Strix varia is a nocturnal hunter. Barred Owls live in solitary sites for most of the year, only living in familial groups from the breeding season until the young leave the nest. They will call to other members of the species in the area if disturbed. Their calls are very important in the mating ritual.


    Strix varia is arboreal, living in coniferous forests near water source, and wooded swamps. They require dense foliage for daytime roosting, and large trees with cavities for nesting.

    Biomes: temperate forest & rainforest

    Economic Importance for Humans


    Strix varia feeds on small mammals which helps keep the population of crop damaging rodents under control in rural areas.


    No none negative impact.



    Strix varia has been successfully expanding its range in past decades, taking over areas the spotted owl once populated in Northern California.