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Barred Owl Basics

Barred Owls...

...are generalist, opportunistic predators. They catch small to medium-sized prey, mostly at night. Prey includes: crawfish, goldfish, snakes, rats and mice, small rabbits and gray squirrels, flying squirrels, bats, birds-cardinals, grackles, Cedar Waxwings, Flickers, etc., and large insects, especially cicadas in the summer. They cannot catch cats or small dogs!

... nest once a year. Their first nesting season is usually as they approach their second "hatchday." Sometimes Barred Owls will mate before they're 1 year old, but this is unusual.

... lay 1 to 4 (very rarely) eggs, and usually raise 2 young. A Barred Owl in its early teens is getting pretty old.  We've had two or three cases of pairs renesting after losing a first clutch of eggs, but this is rare.

... mate for life, but will replace a mate that dies very quickly.

... are found in forested habitats across eastern North America and are now expanding into the Pacific northwest.

In the Charlotte area, eggs are laid around the beginning of March. The young hatch in about 30 days and leave the nest well before they are fully grown or fully feathered, at about 4-5 weeks of age. Once they leave the cavity, they do not go back to it. Downy young can use their beak and claws to climb up trees when they fall, which they do not uncommonly. Young found on the ground with no obvious injury should just be put back up on a branch. The parents will deliver food to them.

 

 

Males do all the hunting while the female is on eggs (about 30 days) and probably most of the hunting during the first 2 weeks after the young hatch. As the young get larger and more demanding, the female will join in the hunting. Young are dependent upon their parents roughly through June. In July they leave home and wander only a few miles away in search of good habitat not already occupied by Barred Owls. The farthest we've had a young disperse from its nest is 14 miles.  

Males use a larger territory than females. In suburban Charlotte, the average male's territory is about 200 acres vs. 100 acres for females. A 200 acre territory would be 0.6 miles in diameter.

As with most birds of prey, female Barred Owls are larger than males. Females weigh between 1.75 - 2.5 lbs. Males weigh between 1.3 and 1.8 lbs. Their wingspan is about 38-42 inches.

Barred Owls are cavity nesters, usually nesting in holes in trees. Very few owl species actually build a nest. Most nest in holes in trees, while some will use an abandoned crow or hawk nest. Great-horned Owls usually use old stick nests, Barred Owls rarely do. Barred Owls will use nest boxes. (See plans)

Barred Owls do not nest in pines or magnolias, they roost in them. If you see an owl heading into an evergreen or coming out of one, it was not flying to or from a nest, it was just trying to get a good day's sleep, away from those pesky songbirds, which will harass any owl they see out and about in the daytime. They do this because owls are a major threat. If a small bird can see the owl first, it's very unlikely the owl can catch the bird. The bird can then give an alarm call, summoning all his friends and relations to make the owl miserable and drive it away.

In the Charlotte area, eggs are laid around the beginning of March. The young hatch in about 30 days and leave the nest well before they are fully grown or fully feathered, at about 4-5 weeks of age. Once they leave the cavity, they do not go back to it. Downy young can use their beak and claws to climb up trees when they fall, which they do not uncommonly. Young found on the ground with no obvious injury should just be put back up on a branch. The parents will deliver food to them.

Pairs nest as close as 200 yds apart, (usually about 400) with very little overlap in the territories of neighboring males. Females apparently have some visiting privileges with their neighboring males.  This year we had two pairs nesting about 100 yds apart (at the Nature Museum in Freedom Park).