Apalachicola Eco Tours Apalachicola Florid Home | Blog | Contact



Barred OwlThe Barred Owl (Strix varia), also known as the Swamp Owl, is widespread throughout the eastern United States. It is a medium sized owl with alternating bars of grey-brown and white on the chest and belly that give the bird its name, and a round head with a whitish facial disc trimmed in brown. The eyes are dark brown and the yellow beak is almost covered by whisker-like feathers. There is no difference in the plumage of males and females, but the female is about 20% larger. A nocturnal bird, this owl spends its days roosting high up in the trees with its plumage providing very effective camouflage. The Barred Owl is one of five owl species in Florida and one of over two hundred species worldwide.

Because of the nocturnal nature and coloring of the Barred Owl, it is more often heard than seen. Its multi syllabic call can often be heard in the floodplain swamps along the Apalachicola River, as well as urban backyards. Many people say that it sounds like the bird is saying, "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?" In addition to their cooking question, the Barred Owl also produces a strange chattering noise that sounds similar to a monkey, as well as yelps and barks. As is the case with some other owl species, they will call both day and night. Barred Owls vocalize year round, but activity increases in the late winter and early spring as the males and females start their courtship rituals.

Barred Owls do not build their own nests. They use tree cavities or nests that have been abandoned by other birds and squirrels. Pairs mate for life, and both parents care for their young. The female lays 2-4 round, white, rough shelled eggs. Incubation takes about a month, and the male feeds the female while she is on the nest. Four weeks after hatching, the young owls will start to climb out of the nest and sit on branches; but it will be another month before they can fly. Owls at this stage are called branchers. Branchers sometimes fall from their tree, but can usually to climb back up using their talons and beak. Once they fledge, the young tend to settle within a few miles of the parents' territory.

The Barred Owl is a stealthy and opportunistic hunter. It generally employs a perch and pounce method where it sits unseen and unheard on a branch and waits for its prey to pass by underneath. The owl then drops silently off of the branch and seizes the prey with its sharp and powerful talons. Most prey is consumed immediately, but larger prey will be carried back up to the perch where it can be torn apart with the beak before eating. This owl can carry off an animal weighing as much as three times its own body weight. Preferred diet consists of a variety of small mammals, but Barred Owls will also prey on reptiles, amphibians, large insects and, occasionally, fish or birds. The only natural enemy of the Barred Owl is the larger Great Horned Owl. Barred Owls have lived for over thirty years in captivity. Expected lifespan in the wild is about half that, with most premature deaths attributable to human activity (shootings, road kill, etc.).

I decided to name my tour boat Swamp Owl after the female Barred Owl that I trained and work with at the Tallahassee Museum. Keep your eyes (and ears) open for this beautiful owl. They are not just in the swamps; there may be one living right in your own backyard.


Call us for more details on an Apalachicola Eco Tour : 850-899-5000