Hunter– Hunter the barred owl (Strix varia) comes from Alaska’s state capitol, Juneau. Hunter has lived at the ABEF since 2010 and we are unsure of his age. Hunter enjoys interacting with guests that walk by his home, target training for mice and feeling the wind beneath his feathers as he gazes out of the windows of his house. Hunter’s favorite foods include mice and quail.
Barred Owl Natural History
Identification: Barred owls (Strix varia) are a relatively large North American forest owl. They have a stocky body with a short tail and broad wings. They can be identified by their round face, yellow beak and dark brown eyes. Their chest is cream colored with dark brown vertical bars. Their backside and tail is dark brown with whitish-tan horizontal bars. It is thought the plumage of the barred owl helps camouflage it in the dappled light of the forest. Most barred owls have feathers all the way down their legs and to their toes. Barred owls are more commonly heard than seen. Their characteristic hoot is known for sounding like, “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all”. They are also well known for many other vocalizations and are known to be vocal at all times of the day and night.
Hunting and diet: Barred owls have been recorded hunting during the day, dawn, dusk, and at night. It has been more commonly observed for them to hunt at dusk and at night however. Like most owls, barred owls use their extraordinary hearing to locate and hunt their prey. They will perch high and listen for their prey and when they hear something, they will swoop down to acquire the prey item. Barred owls are known to be extremely opportunistic birds; they’ve been recorded taking small mammals, fish, reptiles, small birds, amphibians, bats and insects. Due to their varied diet, biologists have also observed barred owls catching their prey using a variety of hunting techniques ranging from wading in water to catch fish to jumping through snow to catch small mammals.
Size: As with most raptors, females are larger. These owls can range from 16-22 inches in length with a wingspan that averages between 39-44 inches. They can weigh between 1-2.5 pounds.
Habitat: Barred owls are found in dense forests in eastern North American and in the temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest. They can be found in either coniferous or mixed deciduous-coniferous forests. These owls are associated with water and can be found living near wooded swamps and bogs as well as rivers, creeks and lakes near forested areas. On the east coast, barred owls prefer to nest in old growth tree stands, while in the Pacific Northwest, they will commonly nest in second, or mixed growth stands. In Alaska, barred owls are only found in the Southeast portion of the state.
Nesting and breeding: Little has been recorded about the specific interactions between male and female. Scientists have recorded the sounds of their courtship and described it as though the pair were screaming at each other. It is presumed that barred owls are monogamous and mate together until one mate dies. Barred owls do not build a nest. Instead they use a rock or tree cavity or an abandoned nest of a raven, crow or hawk. Nests are commonly reused year after year. Between one and five eggs are laid between March and April. These eggs are laid between one and three days apart. The eggs are incubated for about 30 days and once the chicks have hatched, they start leaving the nest/nesting territory after about 12 weeks.
Other facts: A barred owl’s most common predator is the great horned owl. Barred owls used to only be found in the eastern portion of the continent, however, they have expanded their range to the Pacific Northwest within the last 50 years. Scientists think this is due to loss of habitat in the East, and the barred owls uncanny ability to adapt. In the Pacific Northwest, the barred owl has displaced some Northern spotted owls, as the spotted owl is less aggressive and adaptive as the barred owl. Some barred owls have also mated with spotted owls, creating a “sparred owl”.
Most common problems: The main threat to barred owls is loss of habitat through clear-cutting and urban development. Pesticide positioning is a problem, especially in freshly planted clear-cuts. Finally, collision with vehicle is a common cause of death for these owls.
Hunter’s sponsors are: Deloris Row, Judy Ewald, Sofia Sosa, Donna Eisenman
By sponsoring Hunter, you are helping to provide her with food, as well as any aviary maintenance or cleaning supplies for one year. Thank you for your support!