The York Center for Wildlife is in Cape Neddick, Maine. The center rescues and rehabilitates sick and injured wildlife, including owls. One recent winter was so harsh, that 36 owls were admitted to the Center, 30 of which were barred owls. Many owlets had fallen from their nest when a parent went missing. Booboo, a tiny raptor, was one of them.

Booboo was a “challenging” orphan as are most owlets. They easily capture the hearts of their caregivers. But an owlet imprints the face of his parents when taking food. Workers had to be careful to avoid making eye contact with Booboo when they hand-fed him and also needed to be silent. If an owl imprints with a human, they become “unreleasable” and will not survive in the wild.

Mr. and Mrs. Strix, a pair of barred owl, are permanently housed at the Center for Wildlife (CFW). Both had suffered injuries over a particularly harsh winter. Mr. Strix was hit by a car when foraging for food along the roadside. Mrs. Strix collided with a glass panel window on a nearby home, mistaking the reflection as a safe place to perch. Neither one would be released back into the wild. Mr. Strix injured his eyes and was partially blind and unable to hunt. Mrs. Strix suffered a serious injury to her talons and could not capture her own prey.  Together, they became “foster parents” to Booboo.

When Booboo first arrived at CFW, a nest of sorts was created out of towels and a heating pad. Booboo was then placed in a specially-designed box that the staff could pass food through and Booboo was free to watch and listen to Mr. and Mrs. Strix in their living area. As he grew, his hunting abilities were tested in a flight cage. Thanks to his raptor instincts, Booboo mastered hunting immediately. Just a few months later, on a beautiful August night, Booboo was released into the wild.


The Barred owl has many different calls. There are calls for when they are mating, bringing food to the nest, warning and singing in duet. Some say that they have 1000 different calls. But the most recognizable and common call is this:

“Who cooks for you, who cooks for you?”

–The Barred Owl


  • The barred owl is the only owl in Maine with brown eyes.
  • Main food: rodents, frogs and birds. The barred owl will walk into a pond or lake to feed on crayfish. Known to eat rabbits, flying squirrels, opossums and various birds.
  • The barred owl is gray-brown and has no ear tufts. Its head is round. The neck and back are barred-crosswise and the belly is barred lengthwise.
  • The barred owl prefers swamps adjacent to open meadows for foraging.  It is nocturnal. Sometimes the barred owl hunts at dawn or dusk. They watch their prey from their perch or by flying low through the forest. They may hover before dropping to clutch their prey with their talons.
  • The barred owl is attracted to vernal pools or temporary pools of water that provide habitat for certain plants and animals.  They become breeding grounds for insects, salamanders and frogs…a menu made for the barred owl.
  • Their familiar calls can be heard in the depths of winter through the summer months.
  • Barred owls are sometimes called “laughing” owls.
  • If you see a pair of barred owls bobbing and bowing their heads, they are courting.

-Gary Stevens

Barred owls seem to be content in the company of humans so long as they do not get too close. Gary Stevens of the York Water District described a barred owl that would swoop past him every day. The resident barred owl followed Stevens so often, he came to expect him.

“It would swoop across the trail in front of me”, he said. “This area is a section of hemlock forest in between 2 swamps. The owl never seemed nervous or upset, just curious.” 

  • Scientific name: Strix varia
  • Relatively large at 20 inches long
  • Wingspan308 – 50 inches
  • Weight: About 1- 1.5 pounds. Female may be a bit larger.
  • Length: 16 to 25 inches.
  • Beak is short and sharp.

Barred Owl