Owls of Iowa: Barred owl

Even without the tufts of the great horned owl, barred owls (Strix varia) still have that classic owl shape and are easily diagnosed as owls from far away. Their haunting black eyes make them a beautiful addition to the owls of Iowa series.

perched barred owl

Who cooks for you?

The barred owl has one of the most instantly recognizable owl calls, after the well-known "whoo whoo" of the great horned owl. The barred owl asks "Who cooks for you?"

Nocturnal, most of the time

You may have heard the "Who cooks for you?" call during the day, because barred owls typically are awake and hunt at night like other owls but will sometimes feed during the day.

Barred owls have a varied diet from small mammals to birds, amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates. They will even drop into water to catch fish or wade in the shallows to find crayfish.

Close to home

Barred owls are homebodies. They don't migrate, but they also don't move far from their home forests. A study of 158 owls found that none had moved farther than 6 miles away from where it was first banded.

Flyers and climbers

Young barred owls can actually climb trees by grasping with their bills and talons and flapping their wings, walking up the trunk.


Great horned prey

Barred owls are mid-size for owls, a little larger than a crow, comparatively. However, the great horned owl is actually the most dangerous predator of the barred owl, because the larger owl will eat barred owl eggs, young and even adults.


Owls of Iowa: Barn owl

  We’ve talked about the large great horned owl, tiny northern saw-whet owl and adorable eastern screech owl, so this week we moved on to the state endangered barn owl. Barn owls are not federally endangered but their populations are low in Iowa. That could be because of habitat loss and prey loss because of Read More »

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Owls of Iowa: Eastern screech owl

They are called the eastern screech owl (Megascops asio), but that doesn’t mean all you’ll hear from them is screeches. Typically, these small owls only screech when they are defending their nest or fledglings. Otherwise, you will hear a variety of calls, including trills, whinnies, hoots and barks. They even make a clacking sound by Read More »

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Owls of Iowa: Northern saw-whet owl

Great-horned owls may be the most well-known and most common owl in Iowa, but I don’t think there’s any disputing that the northern saw-whet owl is the cutest. Only slightly heavier than a hairy woodpecker and about the size of a robin, the saw-whet owl (Aegolius acadicus) is tiny and adorable. Saw-what owls hide easily. Read More »

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Owls of Iowa: Great horned owl

There are nine species of owls in Iowa, and the great-horned owl (Bubo virgianus) may be the most well-known species. Great-horned owls have the quintessential owl call. When you think owl, you think “Whoooo. Whoooo.” That is actually not the call of every owl but the call of the great-horned owl. You can’t see their Read More »

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Make your own backyard birding binoculars

Birding is such a popular hobby because everyone can do it. Whether you are backyard birding, taking a hike or even boating, you can always catalogue the birds that you see. The he Dickinson County Nature Center features nests of some of the most common birds you might see right outside your window. (Grackles, blackbirds Read More »

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Will the mama bird take her baby back if you touch it?

We are planning on redoing our landscaping, and a volunteer bush on the corner of the house needs to come out. However, my husband Snapchatted a picture to me of a robin, and she decided to make her nest right in the bush. Needless to say, that bush will not be going anywhere for the Read More »

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