Our Wild Neighbors

Barred Owl

Strix varia

An increasingly present tenant in Eastern Canada’s urban forests

Image of a Barred Owl, mounted on a branch, seen from the front.

Description of the animal

  • Striped plumage. Horizontal stripes on its breast, back, and wings; vertical stripes on its stomach.
  • Big round head, no ear tufts.
  • Two light-grey facial discs with several dark concentric circles bordered with darker brown ones.
  • Dark brown, almost black eyes. Other nocturnal raptors have yellow eyes.
  • Small, sharp, yellow bill partially covered with feathers.
  • Feet and toes covered with feathers.
  • Its talons are a dark horn colour and black.
  • Wingspan of an adult Barred Owl: between 102 and 127 centimetres.
  • The male and the female’s plumage are similar. The male is smaller than the female.

Habitat and needs

  • Lives mainly in mature mixed or deciduous forests located near open areas and in parks.
  • Hunts from a perched position during the night or at dusk. The Barred Owl intently watches its prey before swooping down on it.
  • Hoots throughout the year, but mates only in February and nests between March and August.
  • Nests in natural cavities found in trees.
  • Lays two or three eggs.
  • Feeds mainly on voles and other rodents, but occasionally eats birds, reptiles, or amphibians, depending on what it finds.
  • Lives for 18 to 23 years.
  • Unites with a partner for life, or until the death of its mate.


  • The Barred Owl is difficult to observe. Its characteristic hoot can be heard from far away.
  • A victim of deforestation that has destroyed its habitat, the Barred Owl is a good indicator of sustainable forest development.
  • Contributes to controlling small mammal populations.
  • A more and more frequent victim of vehicle accidents.

Living with them

  • Amateur ornithologists can search for regurgitated pellets at the bottom of hollow trees in forests. Their presence indicates that the Barred Owl or other birds of prey are nearby.
  • It is important to be as unobtrusive as possible during walks in the forest, particularly between March 1 and September 1, during the Barred Owl’s nesting and rearing period. It sleeps during the day.
  • Preserving hollow trees and refraining from undertaking drainage work are important in conserving wetlands.

Participating cities where this animal has been seen