Barred Owl (Strix varia)

The Barred Owl is a medium-sized owl that prefers older growth forests. It frequently produces two to four young in a given season. A Barred Owl's eggs (like those of all North American owls) are white and rather spherical.

Young Barred Owls begin exploring the world outside the nest at about four weeks of age. We can often see the babes peering out from the opening a week or so before any actually appear on a nearby branch. As is true for most North American owls, young hatch two to three days apart. As a result, they also tend to begin branching several days apart and are readily distinguishable from each other by size for several weeks afterwards. Young Barred Owls are very inquisitive birds and thrive when they can explore their environments.

The Barred Owl is closely related to the Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis) and tends to be more aggressive than its smaller, spotted cousin. As a result, where populations meet, it is usually the Barred Owl that retains the majority of territories. Both species have dark brown eyes and horn coloured beaks. The Barred Owl has vertical barring on its belly (horizontal on the breast) while its western cousin has horizontal barring (which often appears blotchy or spotted) on its belly and tends to be a darker brown overall. Where populations overlap, these two species will interbreed. Progeny from these matings are known as Sparred Owls.

Spotted Owl


The Barred Owl has a very distinctive call. Traditionally, the mnemonics for this are "Who cooks for you" and "Who cooks for you all". These owls also have a few other typical calls which rise in pitch and volume until reaching a final "wack-oh!" or "woo-HOO!" The former of these is a spring vocalization used to help find a mate. Barred Owls will often vocalize together in courtship season. Juveniles will produce reaping cries similar to those of many other North American owl species when hungry.


"Who Cooks For You". Territorial call produced by both sexes. This is the traditionally known Barred Owl vocalization.

Listen for the famous "who cooks for you" call by one of the two males and the "wacko" call presented by the other.

  This is the typical year round call we hear at The Owl Foundation.
Woo Hoo

  Cries produced by a nestling Barred Owl moments before being placed in the nest cavity of one of TOF's foster Barred Owl pairs.

  Spring vocalization made by both sexes. Males seem to use this call to entice their mates closer for copulation.

  Here the owl repeats a single HOO! every 10-15 seconds.
Single Exclamation

  This is a subadult Barred Owl male practicing his territorial "Who Cooks for You". Compare this with those calls produced by the adults above.


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Owl vocalizations recorded by Kara Kristjanson.
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