Barred Owl: Bird Finder for Sept. 4
by Michael Aurelia
September 4, 2015 – Barred Owls are widely distributed throughout the state wherever large, unfragmented tracts of forested land are present. Barred Owls are only slightly smaller that Connecticut’s largest native owl the Great Horned. Because the Great Horned Owl predates young Barred Owls, the two owls are rarely found near each other.
When you are walking in forested habitat, you are more likely to hear a Barred Owl before you ever see one. The call “Who cooks for you … Who cooks for you all” can even be heard during the day.
Barred Owls are fairly common throughout the state and individuals have been reported on e-Bird this week.
What it looks like: The Barred Owl is a fairly large, brown-gray owl. Both the male and female look similar although the female is larger. They both have a large round head with discs around each eye but no ear tufts. The feathers on its neck and upper chest are “barred” while those on the belly are strongly streaked. Beaks are a dull yellow and the eyes usually dark brown.
Where and How to Find It: This owl is almost always found deep in the forest, usually near wooded swamps or riparian areas. The older the woods, the better because owls like large trees with plenty of cavities for nesting. They will occasionally use abandoned stick nests of other raptors too.
Barred Owl territories are large but the birds usually remain in their original territory unless forced to move by changes in food supply or human activity.
When in the woods listen for this owl’s call. Some say its call also sounds like a barking dog. To find the most recent reports of this owl, go to e-Bird.org – Explore Data: species maps function and insert “Barred Owl” – date: year around current year – Location: Connecticut.
Other interesting facts: Barred Owls are in the same genus as the Great Gray Owl and endangered Spotted Owl. Although this owl is an opportunistic predator and eats mainly small mammals, its diet is quite diverse. Research indicates that it also eats birds (as large as ruffed grouse), invertebrates (including crayfish) and fish. The literature indicates pairs are monogamous and the female is 33 percent larger that the male. In Connecticut, nesting occurs between March and May with two to three eggs per nest.
Conservation Status: The Barred Owl’s status in Connecticut can be described as stable. As forest habitat returned to Connecticut over the last century, the owl’s numbers increased. The northwest corner of the state has been identified as the owl’s breeding stronghold although the bird can be found from the coast to the Massachusetts border. The key to protecting this bird in Connecticut is maintaining large blocks of forested land near wetlands and watercourses.
Top Barred Owl photo by Dick Daniels, Carolinabirds.org. The bottom Barred Owl photo was taken at the raptor compound at our Center at Fairfield.