Strigidae (typical owls) in the order Strigiformes (owls)
The only large, brown-streaked, dark-eyed owl in Missouri (the barn owl is the only other large eastern owl with dark eyes). Voice is ventroloquial (hard to locate), a varied series of hoots and screams. Though the owl is not often seen, its classic series of hoots is commonly heard and easily identifiable: “hoo hoo hoohoo, hoo hoo hoohooahh,” also described as “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all?” Occasionally flies during daylight, especially when disturbed. Flight buoyant.
Length: 21 inches (tip of bill to tip of tail); wingspan: 3 1/2 to 4 feet.
Habitat and conservation:
Resides along forested streams, lakes, rivers and swamps, particularly in deep woods with big timber. They forage at night and often even during the day. Barred owls lose habitat with the removal of large dead trees suitable for nesting. Other problems include stream pollution, collisions with cars and predation and competition by great horned owls.
Prey includes small rodents, rabbits, frogs, snakes, insects, crayfish and occasionally fish.
Distribution in Missouri:
Common permanent resident.
Courtship and breeding take place from February through March in Missouri. Two or three white, round eggs are laid in a tree cavity or occasionally in an abandoned hawk nest. Incubation lasts 28 days, and the owlets are reared for 42 days.
In addition to the service that owls provide in hunting small mammals that can be troublesome to humans, especially farmers and gardeners, owls also have a long, rich history in human legends and folklore.
As with many owls, barred owls are efficient predators of rodents and therefore do an important job of keeping their populations in check.