Thursday, March 2, 2017

Barred Owl

Common New Brunswick Owl

Barred Owl [Internet Photo]
The Barred Owl (Strix varia) is a common New Brunswick owl species.  It is a permanent resident of most of southern Canada and the eastern United States.  It does not migrate but some individuals living in the northern-most part of the range may fly southward in winter if food is scarce.  

The Barred Owl is a medium-sized owl.  It is a member of the Strigidae family and shares the Strix genus with the Spotted Owl and the Great Gray Owl.  It is 53 cm (21 in) long and is distinctive with its dark eyes.  Most of our other owls have yellow eyes. The only owls with dark eyes are the Barred Owl, the Barn Owl (rare here) and the Spotted Owl (rare western species).  The Barred Owl is mainly brown in colour and light underneath.  It has dark brown barring on its upper breast and a distinctive dark ring around its facial disk.  The back is a rich speckled brown.  Its head appears large and it has not ear tufts.  Males and females look the same.

Barred Owl
Barred owls are primarily nocturnal.  They are a vocal species and can be easily heard at night.  Often you can hear one call and another answer from a distance.  Their call is a 'who cooks for you, who cooks for you-all' or a loud drawn out 'hoo-waah'.  

This owl lives in deep moist deciduous and boreal forests, wooded swamps and wooded areas near waterways.  We found the one shown above in a cedar thicket near St. Andrews this week.  It was being mobbed by crows but paid us little attention.  It was sleeping snuggled up to the truck of a tree. See the photo below for how well it hides itself.  It takes a trained eye sometimes to find them.

Barred Owl
Barred owls nest in tree cavities.  Occasionally they will use an abandoned stick nest.  The female lays 2 or 3 white eggs and the incubation is done by the female only.  The male brings her food while she is sitting.  They eat mainly rodents (voles, mice, rats, squirrels, young rabbits), weasels, and also some birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects.  

Barred Owl [L Doucet Photo]
The Barred Owl is almost never seen in groups.  However, during one of our owl surveys here in New Brunswick we had 6 Barred Owls at one of our stops.  That was exciting!   A group of owls is sometimes called a 'bazaar', a 'parliament', or a 'wisdom' of owls.  The English language is strange but it is interesting to experience a parliament of owls!

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