Barred Owl

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Barred Owl
Barred Owl
Photo by: 
Paul Ruehle

“Could I have a hyena in my back yard at night?” That is a question that I have had to answer more than once in my career. The answer is, of course, not likely but I bet I know what is making that strange sound. The Barred Owl ( Strix varia ) is perhaps our most common owl and can make a variety of calls. It has adapted quite well to urban settings, especially areas with a creek or constant water source.

Most famously known for its classic call of “Who Cooks For You, Who Cooks For You Aaaallll”, Barreds will do many variations of this depending on the situation. The hyena or monkey sounding call that people often describe is most often given when adult birds get close to the edge of another adults territory. As with most wild animals, this not permitted by the owls and they will get into a vocal dispute before physical aggression is taken.

Barred Owls are medium sized owls that are named for the barring pattern on their chest. They are the only owl in our area with dark eyes and no “ear” tuffs. They are most likely to be found in wet areas, especially along rivers and streams. They are the kings of the nighttime world in the swamps across the southern states.

Like all owls they prey on small mammals and snakes but their taste for fish and crayfish is quite unique. I had a call a few years ago from a man who had a Barred Owl eating his Koi at night.

Barred Owls are cavity nesting birds thus they can be attracted to a nesting structure. I have most often found their nests in trees where a large limb has broken off to form a deep crevasse.

For an animal that is nocturnal, I have found them many times during daylight hours. When out hiking in a riparian areas keep an eye out for their unique silhouette perched quietly up in a tree.

By Mark McKellar

FALL 2009