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The Original All-American Hooter:
The Barred Owl (Strix varia)

The Famous American Hoot Owl, more correctly, the Barred Owl, is a year-round resident, a raptor of the family of Strigedae. Unlike the family of Barn Owls (Aluconidae), which have the famous heart-shaped face, the Hoot Owl has a more or less circular face and can be quite large (approximately 21 inches) with big brown eyes.

Most of their frightening size is feathers, but Barred Owls are impressive anyway. A relative of ours stepped into his wooded drive one day (in North Carolina) and found himself facing a 2-foot tall brown apparition that stared at him; then said very clearly, "Who? Who? Who Cooks for You??" Which is what Barred Owls say -- in a big voice, along with many "ahoos", "hoo-ahs", barks and sometimes screams. They are "proficient hooters", particularly in moonlit nights and often during the day.

Barred Owls are widespread and common, mostly East of the Mississippi to the Gulf and Atlantic (with many through lower and Northwest Canada). They prefer dense conifer, or mixed woods of river bottoms and swamps. They feed on small mammals and small birds, as well as frogs, crawfish, lizards and snakes. (Birds know it and often attack them as a group because of it.) These owls nest in tree hollows or deserted nests of crows or hawks.

How did they get named?

The Barred Owl has a distinctive wide brown and gray collar bar on its upper breast, with streaking on its belly. (Except for this, they're similar to the smaller Spotted Owl.) They have no ear tufts. "Hoot! Man...."

Photograph courtesy © Matt Miles, P.O. Box 73, Rogersville, MO 65742. Notecards available.

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