Have you ever seen a Barred Owl? If you’re like most area residents, the answer is ‘probably not.’ But if you like to go for hikes in the woods, even if you’ve never seen one, that’s not to say one hasn’t seen you.
Barred owls live on the edge of old growth forests, which is exactly where I saw a beautiful specimen one morning in Cow Bay. It was sitting up in a Balsam Fir tree on the edge of a hill overlooking a bog. It looked more like a big, earless pussycat than a bird sitting up in that tree. No wonder they’re known in French as ‘Le Chat-huant du Nord,’ – ‘the Hooting Cat of the North.’
Its gaze followed me as I walked along the path. Barred Owls have very dark brown eyes, a quality that sets them apart from most of their golden-eyed relatives. Their name comes from the brown bars that are apparent on their head and breast feathers. Their unique hooting sounds like they are calling out: Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?
Barred owls weigh less than two pounds, have weak talons and are unable to catch smaller birds on the wing. They eat mostly voles and shrews but will also eat other small mammals, amphibians, reptiles and sometimes fish. In the spring, the female lays 2 to 3 eggs. Once hatched, the little ones require a great deal of care. These owls have a life expectancy of approximately 10 years in the wild and 25 years in captivity.
Some spectacular photos of a Barred Owl can be found on Alex Moody’s blog at