Barred Owl

Strix varia

Conservation Status: Not listed


State Rank Status: No data for NH population trend unknown in NH but appears to be increasing in other parts of its range.


Distribution: Most common owl throughout NH. Year-round resident.


Description: Up to 21” tall with up to a 43” wingspan. Dark bars across chest w/dark streaks below. Round head dark eyes, yellow bill and no ear tufts.


Voice: A series of hoots sounds like “Who cooks for you – who cooks for you all.”


Commonly Confused Species: Great horned owls are larger. Barred owls may perhaps be most commonly confused with barn owls – not due to appearance but similar sounding names.

Habitat: Mixed woodlands w/large cavity trees for nesting & forest openings for feeding.


Nesting: Barred owl pairs raise one brood per year and probably mate for life. Nests are usually in a natural cavity 20-40 feet high with an opening 10-13 inches wide. They may also use abandoned stick nests made by squirrels, crows, hawks or other birds. Females lay 1-5 purely white eggs and incubate the clutch for 28-33 days. Hatchlings are covered with white down, have closed eyes, and remain in the nest for 28-35 days.


Diet: Consists mostly of small mammals (i.e. mice, squirrels) and small birds, reptiles and amphibians, and invertebrates. Small prey are swallowed whole and larger prey are eaten in pieces starting with the head first. They roost on tree branches and in tree cavities during the day and hunt at night by perching high up, watching and listening and then swooping down on prey.