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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Barred Owl -- Strix varia


RANGE: Resident from southern and eastern British Columbia, northern Washington, and extreme northwestern Montana east to central Saskatchewan, and from southern Manitoba and central Ontario to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, south to central and southern Texas, the Gulf Coast, southern Florida, and northern Mexico. Northernmost populations are partially migratory.

STATUS: Common to uncommon.

HABITAT: Prefers dense woodlands bordering lakes, streams, swamps, marshes, or low meadows. Favors oak woodlands or mixed forests free of a dense understory but also inhabits deciduous, coniferous, and mixed forests. May also inhabit isolated woodlots with numerous mature trees.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Cool, damp lowlands with large cavity trees 20 inches dbh or greater for nesting.

NEST: Typically nests in a large cavity in a dead tree; may nest in abandoned hawk, crow, or squirrel nests if cavities are scarce. Generally chooses tall, old trees with cavities at least 25 feet above the ground, and in the forest interior. May use the same nest site for many years.

FOOD: Hunts for prey over open fields, clearings, and wetlands near woodlands. Feeds on a wide variety of animals, especially mice and other small mammals; also eats birds (from warblers to grouse and other species of owls), fishes, frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, crayfish, scorpions, snails, spiders, and large insects.

REFERENCES: DeGraff et al. 1980, Dunstan and Sample 1972, Heintzelman 1979, Johnsgard 1979, Karalus and Eckert 1974, Nicholls and Warner 1972.


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