Barred Owl Nesting, Mating, Behavior Habits

The Barred Owl is the most likely owl to be seen during daylight. While mostly nocturnal, it often hunts during cloudy days and can be seen at dawn and dusk.

Its call sounds like "who cooks for you, who cooks for you."

barred owl

What struck me when seeing this bird was its size, and how it was so quiet as it flew away. You never hear the flapping of the wings.

What They Look Like

These raptors are large. The bird is 18 inches to 2 feet in length, with females a little larger than males.

The Barred Owl is named for the feather patterns, which are barred with alternating colors of white and brown, along its head, chest, and back.

Its belly is streaked lengthwise with white and brown feathers.

Their eyes are large and dark brown. A Barred Owl has a pale gray disc around its eyes and a yellow bill. These discs are outlined with a dark brown line.

Just behind the facial disc, the white and brown barred pattern begins and continues down the bird's back.

What Do Barred-Owls Eat Feeding Habits

Feeding primarily on voles, mice, and shrews. Other animals Barred-Owls eat include squirrels, rabbits, bats, snakes, and even going into the water for crayfish and frogs.

The size of the prey it eats determines how the owl eats. Small food is swallowed whole while larger food will be torn apart.

Barred Owls do not have crops like other birds. Instead, the first part of the stomach has acids that digest the food.

The second part is the gizzard, where hair and feathers of prey will eventually become pellets. Those pellets will be regurgitated and dropped to the ground.

Examining these pellets not only tells what the Barred Owl eats but also are a clue to where they are nesting.

The regurgitated pellets are often dropped at the base of the nesting tree.

Owl Watching People Walk Along Sidewalk

Mating Behavior Habits

Courtship can begin as early as December, with the males and females calling back and forth.

The courtship behavior includes bowing to each other and wing flapping. Preening each other also occurs.

During the winter, these birds are solitary but will reunite with previous mates in late winter.

Mating and nesting primarily begins in March and can go into August. Barred Owls are monogamous, often mating for life.

Should one partner die, the remaining owl will find and breed with another.

Nesting Habits

The Barred Owl nesting habits are easy to study, as they often reuse the same nest from season to season.

Nest can be found in an old hawk, squirrel, or crow nest. Sometimes will make use of man-made birdhouses.

The female usually lays 2 or 3 white eggs, but as many as 5 have been noted.

Females are the primary incubators while both males and females sit on eggs.

Barred Owl Nesting Stats
Eggs 2 - 3
Incubation 28 - 33 days
Nestling Phase 30 days
Broods 1

Incubation last about 28-33 days and the young will move from the nest onto a branch in about 30 days, but won't fly for another 10 - 12 days.

The young will continue to stay with the adults for as long as 4 - 6 months after fledging.

A word of caution, Barred Owls may attack people that get too close to a nest site or their young.

Will Barred-Owls Attack People or Dogs?

We get asked if Barred Owls will attack humans and dogs. The answer is, ABSOLUTELY! These Owls are very territorial and protective of their young.

I learned first-hand as a friend of mine and I were finishing up a round of disc golf at dusk. The last hole was close to the owl's nest tree.

As my friend was selecting a disc, a female Barred Owl swooped down and pierced two inches under his right eye, behind his right ear, and put a hole in his ball cap.

We were aware they were around and where they were nesting. We attempted to share the space as much as possible.

If photographing these birds, be aware at all times and keep a safe distance. Also, be sure you know where each owl is perching.

If you're walking your dog, keep it on a leash and do not go near any young or nest.

Migration Habits, Does the Barred Owl Migrate?

The Barred Owl does not migrate and will stay in its territory for life if there is little risk of predation.

Territory size can be between 200 and 400 acres.

Predators of Barred-Owls

Predators include the Great-horned Owl and Northern Goshawks, which will attack adults and young.

In the nest, snakes, raccoons, and weasels will eat eggs and young.

General Information on the Owl species

Australian Owl Species