What does the Cornell Lab of Ornithology have to say about our recent encounter?
Widely distributed through North America, the Barred Owl is a resident of deep forests, including swamps, riparian, and upland habitats. In the twentieth century, it has expanded its range north and west through the boreal forest, and south to northern California.
Identified by its round head lacking ear tufts, brown eyes, and horizontal barring on its throat, the Barred Owl is about one-third smaller than the Great Gray Owl (S. nebulosa), slightly smaller than the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus), and slightly larger than the Spotted Owl. A notable feature is its vocal repertoire. In addition to its distinctive 8-note hooting call (often rendered as “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all”), this owl projects a loud series of spectacular dueting vocalizations during courtship that sound like maniacal laughter.
Like the Spotted Owl, the Barred Owl is territorial throughout the year and monogamous, raising 1 brood a year. It is a true generalist predator, much like the Spotted and Great Horned owls, consuming a variety of birds up to the size of grouse; small mammals up to the size of rabbits; and amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates.
Although the Barred Owl has been expanding its range in North America, concern exists for its populations in some areas. Relying on secondary tree cavities for nests, this owl is most often associated with large trees in old forests. Because of this, it is often used as an indicator species in the management of old forests. In the Pacific Northwest, however, the Barred Owl (unlike the Spotted Owl) readily inhabits mature second-growth forest.
One thing is certain, our recent facebook posts about Pileated Woodpeckers were timely! Their cavity excavations have a big impact on Barred Owls, who rely on their leftover nesting cavities. Just one more example of how every species is important and everything is a delicate balance!