Barred Owl (Strix varia)

Barred Owl


  • The barred owl is a large owl, about 52 centimetres (20 inches) long.


  • This big, grey-brown owl has the appearance of wearing a large collar formed by the barring of the head, neck and breast feathers.
  • The tail, back, wings and head are dark greyish brown, barred heavily with white.
  • The undersides are white with dark spots on the neck, bars on the breast and broad vertical streaks on the abdomen.
  • The facial disk is grey with concentric circles around the eyes.
  • Unlike all the other owls, the barred owl has dark brown irises instead of yellow.
  • In Alberta, range includes the boreal forest, foothill and Rocky Mountain natural regions.
  • Sightings of this owl in Alberta have been made throughout the forested areas in the north-central regions.
  • The total range extends west of the Rockies through northern Canada and south to the United States.
Natural History


  • The barred owl inhabits swamps and dense forest but hunts in neighbouring open country.


  • The barred owl preys mainly on mice, as well as:
    • fish
    • frogs
    • insects
    • small birds

When Active

  • The barred owl is a nocturnal hunter, active at night.
  • It is a resident throughout the year.
Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behavior

  • Hollows in trees, old hawks' and crows' nests and even nest boxes are used for nesting.
  • Two to three eggs are laid.
Conservation and Management


The barred owl is classified as Sensitive in the General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:

Also see the Status of the Barred Owl in Alberta report at:

Alberta’s Endangered Species Conservation Committee (ESCC) identified the barred owl as a Species of Special Concern—a species that without human intervention may soon become threatened with extinction. See:

Current management

  • Like all birds of prey in Alberta, the barred owl is protected by the provincial Wildlife Act.


  • This species requires large blocks of mature dense forests that are threatened by forest fragmentation.
Related links


Page Information

Updated: Aug 30, 2018