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Barred Owl - Strix varia
Other common names: Northern Barred Owl (varia); Florida Barred Owl (georgica); Texas Barred Owl (helveola); Hoot Owl; Wood Owl; Swamp Owl; Rain Owl; Laughing Owl; Crazy Owl; Black-eyed Owl
Subspecies: There are three subspecies of the Barred Owl in the United
States and Canada. There is also a fourth subspecies found in Mexico.
Measurements & Weights:
A medium to large sized owl lacking ear tufts. Male and
female are identical in plumage. Head, neck, chest and most upper parts are
buffy-white with dark brown barring. The lateral barring of the throat and upper
chest sharply break between the vertical streaking of the lower breast and
flanks (This is also a very good field mark to distinguish the Barred Owl from
the very similar Spotted Owl). The dark brown back is spotted with white; facial
disk is grayish white or pale brownish-gray with 4 to 5 concentric semicircular
brown rings and the tail is crossed with 6 to 7 sharply defined bands of pale
brown. The bill is greenish-yellow to dull buff-yellowish; iris is deep brown to
brownish-black; legs and toes feathered buff-white. The talons are dark horn
become black at tips. The Barred Owl's highly distinctive advertisement call,
described as "Who cooks for you; who cooks for you all?" or "You
cook today; I cook tomorrow", is the simplest method of finding and
identifying this owl.
Food and Feeding: The Barred Owl has an extremely varied diet composed mostly of small mammals, especially small rodents, along with a good percentage of birds. Prey also includes arthropods, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. Birds up to the size of grouse, domestic foul, pheasant, partridge and even smaller owls (up to and including records of Long-eared Owls) will be taken. Mammals taken include voles, mice, shrews, squirrels, wood rats, rabbits, opossums, chipmunks, hares and bats are commonly taken. Other prey includes snakes, frogs, lizards, salamanders, mollusks, insects, and has also known to have mastered fishing. The Barred Owl is clearly an opportunistic forager taking whatever is available to them and within their power to overwhelm. Their diet is virtually identical to their close but smaller relative the Spotted Owl (Barred Owl is 17-24 inches in length and the Spotted Owl is 16.5-19 inches) giving it an advantage where the territories have begun to significantly overlap in recent history.
Breeding: The breeding season for this species is fairly long and may last from Feb.-Aug. depending on the region. Renesting is common if the eggs or brood is lost and even a third set is possible after the loss of the second set. The Barred Owl is monogamous and probably pairs for life. Nest sites are most commonly in hollows of old trees but they may also use abandoned hawk or crow's nests. Clutch size is usually 2 to 3 eggs and the incubation, exclusively by the female, lasts 28-33 days. At about 4-5 weeks old the young begin to leave the nest to nearby branches but do not fledge until they are about 6 weeks old and may additionally receive food from the parents for as long as 4 months.
Movements & Lifespan: The Barred Owl is almost always resident year round except during exceptionally harsh winter conditions or possibly depending on prey availability. The lifespan of captive owls has been documented as long as 23 years.
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