BARRED OWL – (Strix varia)
The Barred owl is a fairly large bird of prey that is active at night like other owls (except the Snowy owl). It is approximately 55 cm (20 in.) long and has brown eyes (as opposed to other owls who have yellow eyes), a facial disk that is lighter than the rest of the plumage and a yellow bill. The plumage itself is mottled grey-brown, with horizontal bars along the breast and vertical bars on the belly (hence the name).
The name ‘Owl’ is an onomatopoeia for the bird’s call and comes from Cockney. The genus Latin name ‘Strix’ is from Greek mythology and refers to a bird that was sucking the blood of humans, and ‘varia’ stands for the ‘variegated’ plumage of this owl.
This species of owl has a familiar hooting call that has been translated as, ‘Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all’. The first time I heard it was in the middle of the night in a wooded campground. It was a bit frightening as it was very close & not associated with any other bird sound, such as wing beats (owls have a silent flight).
The main prey of the barred owl is the meadow vole, but this bird is considered a ‘generalist’ predator. This means small mammals and birds, but may occasionally also include the domestic cat (cat owners beware). Their habitat is the mature forest. The barred owl can also attack humans who they perceive as a threat to their nest.
The barred owl is a year-round resident on PEI, and is considered as fairly common throughout all seasons. Its overall range covers the lower eastern half of Canada, and the eastern half of the USA. Barred owls do not migrate and do not move out of their territories generally. This species has been able to extend its range into western Canada and northwest USA, due to reforestation of parts of the Prairies. This is causing a problem for the related but smaller Northern spotted owl, a native to the northwest USA, because it out competes it. It also hybridizes with it.