Barred owl

Strix varia

Wingspan: females, 45 to 50 inches; males, 40 to 46 inches

Range and habitat:

  • Most of the eastern half of North America from southern Canada south to Florida; spreading west in the northern portion of their range and occur in Washington and perhaps as far south as northern California.
  • Deep forests, wooded swamps and woodlands near waterways with nearby open country for foraging.Diet and hunting: Barred owls are opportunistic hunters, preying on a wide variety of small mammals, birds such as woodpeckers, and pigeons; fish, turtles, frogs, snakes, crayfish, and invertebrates.

Barred owls typically hunt from a perched position. They scan the ground for mammals, and then dive down to catch the prey. Birds are taken as they settle into nocturnal roosts. Barred owls may also swoop to the water's edge to catch frogs, other amphibians and fish.

Barred owls are protected

The health of owl populations varies with each species. In the United States, all native owls are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Despite their extensive range in Europe and Asia, eagle owls are not common and are locally endangered. Owls are important parts of their ecosystems: they control populations of small mammals and other animals. The zoo does not currently have a barred owl.

Did you know?

  • Owl stories and myths are found throughout history in many cultures.
  • Owls are often associated with evil and death, but in some cultures seeing an owl has meant good luck.
  • For some Native American tribes, the great horned owl is a guardian spirit of the medicine man.