barred owl Bubo Strix varia

About the Chattahoochee Nature Center Barred Owl

One arrived in March 1991 with a broken toe on the left foot, making it incapable of grasping tightly with that foot. The second arrived in January 1993 with head trauma that destroyed the left eye. The third was brought here in May 2002 from Camden County, Georgia. A fishhook was attached to its right wing, preventing it from flying well.


An all-gray owl (although some individuals have a brown wash) streaked with white horizontal barring on the chest and vertical barring on the belly. It has a yellow beak and no tufts on the head. Its brown eyes distinguish it from the great gray owl, found in the Northern coniferous forest.


Found in the United States and southern Canada east of the Rocky Mountains, although it has been recently expanding its range westward. This is causing concern, as it may compete with the endangered spotted owl.


A woodland owl, associated with flood plains, river bottoms, and lake margins.



A cavity-nesting owl that will also nest in old crow or hawk nests or human-made structures. Barred owls begin nesting in March. They nest in hollow trees, in abandoned nests of other animals or in nest boxes. The female lays two or three white eggs, which hatch in 28 to 33 days. The newly hatched young are covered with fine white down. Young barred owls leave the nest four to five weeks after hatching.


Barred owls feed on a variety of prey, including rodents, squirrels, rabbits, birds, and crustaceans.


A very common species with no special status.

did you know?

A barred owl’s right ear is higher than its left ear.

Hearing from two different angles helps it pinpoint the location of prey.

Their name

Barred owls get their name from the vertical bars on their abdomen

Life span

Average life span is approximately 8 years in the wild.

Growing in numbers

The barred owl is considered an “expanding species.”

In the nest

Parents care for the young for at least 4 months, much longer than most other owls.

their menu

The bird feeds mainly on small mammals, but being an opportunist, it also consumes fish, snakes and frogs.


One of the largest

The Barred Owl is one of our largest owls, 16 to 23 inches tall with a 38 to 45 inch wingspan.

their call

The standard call is often translated as sounding much like “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” The barred owl makes a host of other sounds too, including squirrellike barking, monkey-like hoots and yells, and even bloodcurdling screams!

their discovery

Amateur naturalist Benjamin Smith Barton published the first description of a barred owl in 1799. In Latin, “varia” is a form of the word “varius,” meaning diverse. It has also been known as northern barred owl, swamp owl, striped owl, hoot owl, eight hooter, round-headed owl, Le Chat-huant du Nord (French for “the hooting cat of the north”), wood owl, and rain owl.

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