Barred Owl (Strix varia)

Barred Owl (Strix varia)

Barred Owl through binoculars

This photo was taken March 30 at 7:30AM.  Barred Owls remain in Minnesota year-round, but the weeklong time period surrounding this photo is really the only time I’ve gotten a good look at this owl.  I hear them from time to time (their call sounds like “Who cooks for you, who cooks for youuuu?”), but once the trees leaf out I simply no longer see them.

The photo above was taken from my living room window while I was drinking my morning coffee – I actually held my little camera up to my binoculars (which are on the windowsill at all times) and took several photos through one of the eyepieces. Barred Owls are actually quite common and can be seen during the day; they perch on branches as they wait for prey to scurry or flit past.  They are, however, primarily nocturnal predators.  Barred Owls are adapted for night hunting with their excellent hearing and ability to see well in low light.
Barred Owls cannot, of course, turn their heads completely around, but as you can see from this photo they make a sporting attempt.  They can actually turn it about 3/4 of the way around, which is still quite impressive!
Barred Owls are up to 20 inches tall and can have a wing span of 4 feet!  Their preferred habitat is dense woods near water.  Fortunately, my backyard happens to back up to a nice span of woods, and the Mississippi River follows shortly after that.  They nest in cavities in deciduous trees, but they will also use nest boxes.
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