Barred Owl (Strix varia)
To hear the Barred Owl, click here.
DO THEY LOOK LIKE? Barred owls are large owls with round heads and NO
ear tufts. They are brownish-gray with brown
and white bars across their chest. (Thats
why theyre called barred owls.) Their
legs are covered with feathers. The barred
owls eyes are dark brown, while most other owls have yellow eyes. Their beaks are sharp, but very small, so they are
almost covered up by facial feathers.
EARS, NOSE, AND HEAD Owls can see very well at night, but they can also
see during the day. They have a special inner
eyelid which blocks bright sunlight - owl sunglasses!
Most birds have eyes on the sides of their head. This helps them to see sideways and backwards. Owls, however, have both eyes in the front. This gives them good depth perception (helps them
to tell how far away something is). Unfortunately,
it means they cant see sideways or backwards. To
deal with this, owls can turn their head ALMOST all the way around. But they cant spin their head in a full
circle; their head would twist off! Owl ears
are just holes on the sides of their head covered with feathers. These holes are higher on one side than the other. This helps the owl tell if a sound is coming from
above or below. When you hear a sound, and you
cant tell where its coming from, dont you tilt your head to listen
better? The owl doesnt have to tilt his
head. His ears are tilted already! You also cup your hand over your ear to help you
hear, right? Owls dont have hands, but
they can fluff the feathers around their ear holes to make a little funnel, just like your
hand. The ear tufts that some owls have are NOT ears.
Theyre just feathers that might scare away predators. Because barred owls will eat skunks, scientists
think their sense of smell is not that strong.
HOW DO THEY HUNT? Barred owls often hunt at
night, dawn, or dusk, but can be seen during the day. When
hunting, they usually perch in a tree and watch and listen for prey. Then they swoop down and grab it with their talons
(claws). Their toes are special. Normally, two of their toes go forward, and two go
back. This helps them get a good grip on their
prey. But they can turn a back toe forward if
they want to. This may help them to hold on to
a perch tree. Barred owls (like all owls) are
carnivores (meat-eaters). They can eat mice,
squirrels, foxes, rabbits, bats, small birds, other owls, snakes, lizards, fish, fiddler
crabs, and bugs. Since they eat the whole
animal (except for the wings of birds), they swallow a lot of fur and bones they
cant digest. Owls will regurgitate
(re-GER-ji-tate) or vomit pellets of fur and bones. If
you find a pile of little furry balls under a tree, you have found an owls perch
tree or eating spot. If you pick the pellet
apart, you can see the tiny bones and fur of the animals it has eaten. Barred owls like to sit on trees which have small
branches and moss to hide and camouflage them. When
they fly, they flap their wings a lot, instead of soaring like a vulture. This is because they have special soft feathers
that are very quiet, helping the owl to sneak up on night animals. However soft feathers are not very good at catching
the wind, so the owl has to work hard to fly.
BABY OWLS? Barred owls
live in old forests near marshes or ponds. They
nest in the big holes left by broken branches. They dont really build a nest in the hole,
but may put some soft feathers or grass in the bottom.
If they cant find a tree hole, they may use an old nest left by a hawk,
crow, or squirrel. They hardly ever build
their own nests. The same male and female stay
together on a 1 square mile territory all year. They
do not migrate. Each year they use the same
nest. The mother lays 2-3 white, almost round
eggs. When the babies are born, they are
covered with white fluffy down and their eyes stay closed for a whole week. It is a long time before they can fly, about 40
days. Before this, they crawl out of the nest
and sit together on a branch to look around. If
they fall out of the tree, they can usually climb back up using their strong beaks and
talons. The parents hunt for their food and
tear meat into small pieces they can eat. After the babies learn to fly, they follow their
parents around and learn to hunt. The parents
will still feed them for a long time. The
mother is a little bigger than the father, but otherwise, males, females, and teenagers
look just alike.
WHAT ABOUT OWLS AND PEOPLE? Barred owls live all over the eastern U.S.,
and are very common in Florida. Their calls sound like "who cooks for you?
Who cooks for you all?" Since barred owls like to live near water, they
may get tangled in fishing line someone has left behind. Sometimes they are hit by
cars while looking for prey near a road. NEVER try to touch or get close to an owl.
They are predators with strong talons and will hurt you if you get too close.
It is against the law to have an owl as a pet or to have owl feathers without a
permit from the government. Its better to watch and learn and enjoy the owl
Click here to see some other Florida
Provided by the Pelotes Island Nature Preserve
"Carolina Raptor Center: Barred
Green, John. Birds of Prey Coloring Book. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1989.
Stokes, Donald & Lillian. A Guide to Bird Behavior, Vol. III. Boston: Little,
Brown and Company, 1989.
Terres, John K. The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. New York:
Random House, 1996.
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