Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Barred Owl (Strix varia)


French: Chouette rayée German: Streifenkauz Spanish: Cárabo norteamericano

Strix varius


, 1799,

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA


Probably closest to S. fulvescens, and perhaps also close to S. occidentalis. Has at times been considered conspecific with S. fulvescens, but bigger than nearby populations of latter and with different vocalizations. Occasionally hybridizes with S. occidentalis#R#R. In recent study of species’ genetic structure#R, Mexican sartorii found to be separated from remaining taxa of present species by S. fulvescens, suggesting that it is a species-level taxon; has therefore been elevated to species rank by some, this treatment supported by vocal differences#R, although further evidence desirable; may be closer to S. fulvescens than to other taxa currently included within S. varia#R. Races georgica and helveola sometimes synonymized with nominate#R. Four subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. v. varia Barton, 1799 – Northern Barred Owl – from SE Alaska (possibly) and SW Canada (British Columbia) E to Nova Scotia, and S in W USA to N California and in C & E USA to N Texas and North Carolina.
  • S. v. helveola (Bangs, 1899) – Texas.
  • S. v. georgica Latham, 1802 – SE USA.
  • S. v. sartorii (Ridgway, 1874) – Mexican Barred Owl – mountains of C Mexico (Durango to Guerrero, W Veracruz and N Oaxaca).
  • Descriptive notes

    48–55 cm; male mean = 630 g, female mean = 800 g (maximum c. 1050 g); wingspan 107–111 cm. Rather big owl with large, rounded head. Facial disc grey-white to pale... read more


    Highly distinctive, far-carrying 9-syllable, 2-phased hoot, transcribable as e.g. "who cooks... read more


    Coniferous and mixed deciduous-coniferous forest, usually heavy, mature wood with nearby open... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mostly small mammals; also birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates; almost without exception, prey that can be swallowed whole... read more


    Season c. Feb–Aug, depending on region. Monogamous; probably pairs for life. Prefers tree cavity for nest, but will also use... read more


    Mostly resident; more northerly populations sometimes move S, depending on prey availability. In... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Status uncertain; not uncommon locally. Nominate varia has expanded W over past 6 decades; now found in W USA and... read more

    Recommended citation

    Holt, D.W., Berkley, R., Deppe, C., Enríquez Rocha, P., Petersen, J.L., Rangel Salazar, J.L., Segars, K.P., Wood, K.L., de Juana, E., Sharpe, C.J. & Marks, J.S. (2019). Barred Owl (Strix varia). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 22 November 2019).