Barred Owl Wolves Ravens Raptors Rehab Refuge
Barred Owls

"When cats run home and light is come, And dew is cold upon the ground, And the far-off stream is dumb,
And the whirring sail goes round, And the whirring sail goes round; Alone and warming his five wits, The white owl in the belfry sits.
Alfred Lord Tennyson

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Luna, a barred owl by Bharath Manu

Luna, a two year old male barred owl, was struck by a car in New Hampshire
Photo by Bharath Manu AkkraraVeetil

    Barred Owls

Strix varia
Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae
Genus: Strix

Not to be confused with the barn owl, the barred owl lives up to its name.  Look at its plumage.  It is a medium sized owl, one to two pounds, with a three to four foot wing span, that perfectly illustrates the relationships between the sexes in raptors.  You will often see the smaller male standing behind the female at the far corner of the cage, especially if someone enters the cage.   She protects the nest and him, if necessary. in return, when she sits on the eggs, he feeds her. Whereas great horned owls look handsome, but forbidding, barred owls are quite beautiful.

The feet of the owl are more adaptable than that of any other raptor.  Their toes can position themselves either two in front, two in back like woodpeckers, or three in front, one in back, like most other birds.   This makes perching and grasping prey more fool proof.

The barred owl is very opportunistic in its feeding habits, and will take prey as big as a rabbit or a skunk, though probably not full grown adults.  Their main prey are voles, shrews and mice, but they'll eat any other mammal that they can catch, including bats, minks and weasels, and an occasional bird, frog or reptile. Some barred owls have learned how to catch crayfish in streams, and sport reddish feathers on their breasts as a result. While they are creatures of thick forest and swamps, and prefer to roost in secondary tree cavities, barred owls are very adaptable to the ways of people, are common in suburban settings, and will nest in  man-made roosting boxes.

Barred owls cover territories of between 200 to 1000 acres. We often hear them calling in the refuge around dusk. Courtship begins in February with males hooting and screeching, and chasing females. Males display by bobbing back and forth, and lifting their wings as they sidle left and right along branches.
Like other owls, barred owls tend to be monogomous. The breeding season is from March to August, with two to four eggs laid, one every 2 or 3 days. Incubation lasts about a month, and during this period, the male continually brings food to the female. After the chicks hatch, they are ready to "branch" in about a month. Branching is essentially preparation for their first flight, and consists of chicks using their beaks and talons to climb out of the nest and take positions on branches around the nest,spreading and testing their wings. While barred owls raise only one brood per year, if the original clutch of eggs is lost to predation, deforstation or weather, a second clutch may be laid.

When the Federal government placed the spotted owl, a related species indigenous to the northwest, on the endangered species list back in the 90s, they forgot to tell barred owls, who in spreading west across the country, have been displacing and interbreeding with the spotted owls ever since. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have wrestled with the difficult and politically sticky question, whether to shotgun barred owls in the northwest, or risk losing the spotted owl altogether. To the extent that barred owls prefer old growth forests, they are an indicator species for this type of forest.

Barred owls have a haunting call, which sounds like “who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks for-you-all”. Their principal predator is the great horned owl. The most common causes of death are being struck by cars, and being shot or poisoned. Barred owls live about ten years in the wild, and twice that in captivity. Luna was struck by a car in New Hampshire, Helen by a car in North Carolina. Each of these owls is blind in one eye.

Gary Berke and Steve Hall

Luna & Helen by Terry Hawthorne

Luna, left & Helen of Troy, photo by Terry Hawthorne

Helen and LunaHelen and LunaHelen and LunaHelen and Luna
Helen and Luna posing for the camera
Helen and Luna flank AexBarred Owl Range
Alex with Helen and Luna
Luna with SteveWendy with Luna
Luna with Steve & Wendy

Helen fostering orphaned owlet
Helen fostering orphaned chick, who will be released in the Fall.

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Luna & Helen with Alex & meghan
Helen & Luna with Meghan & Alex

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Great site for owl information and resource

barred owls in rehab
Wendy and Marika were rehabbing these two car-struck barred owls in December of 2009

Rewilding the Adirondacjs

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Contact Information
Adirondack Wildlife Refuge
Adirondack Wildlife Refuge & Rehabilitation Center

Steve & Wendy Hall
PO Box 555, 977 Springfield Road, Wilmington, NY 12997
Toll Free: 855-Wolf-Man (855-965-3626)
Cell Phones: 914-715-7620 or 914-772-5983
Office Phone: 518-946-2428
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