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The Owls of North Dakota

Barred Owl
Strix varia

JPG -- Picture of Species

The barred owl is one of the most common owls of the deep woods. It is a large gray-brown owl barred with buff, dark brown and white. The barring is crosswise on its breast but streaked lengthwise on its belly, while its back is spotted with white. It is 17-24 inches in length and has an average wingspan just under 4 feet. It has a round, puffy head with large brown eyes and lacks ear tufts.

The barred owl is found from Canada to Central America, generally east of the Rocky Mountains. It is a permanent resident of dense, mature woodlands, river bottoms, and swamps. It is usually found east of the prairie states and is considered rare in North Dakota. There is some evidence that barred owls breed in the south-eastern part of the state along wooded portions of the Sheyenne River.

The barred owl nests in tree cavities, or in abandoned nests of hawks, crows or squirrels. The eggs are incubated by both adults with the female doing the majority of the work.

While usually nocturnal, the barred owl will hunt on cloudy days at dawn or dusk. Their flight is silent and skillful through the forest, and their eyesight is especially keen. Barred owls eat primarily mice but will also catch chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, fox, crows, frogs, and small snakes, as well as spiders, grasshoppers, and large beetles. While their diet is almost as varied as the great horned owl's, they are considered gentle in comparison.

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