Barred Owl
(Strix varia)


Picture of bird
© Chuck Kling
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The Barred Owl is predominantly found in large, intact tracts of unfragmented, mature forests across the country. This species is one of Canada's more visible and audible owls. Results from the Breeding Bird Survey and the Christmas Bird Count suggest an increasing population in Canada since 1970. This species relies on the availability of secondary nesting cavities and is often used as an indicator species for the management of old-growth forests (Mazur and James 2000). This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Secure2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLarge IncreaseHighAt an Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada50,000 - 500,000 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence


Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts between early March and late March and ends between early July and mid-July, depending on the region. Before or after this period, the probability of an active nest is lower.

Conservation and management

Originally a resident of forests east of the Great Plains, this species expanded into northern and western parts of the continent during the 20th century (Mazur and James 2000). Conservation concern has been noted for this species because of its strong association with mature, unfragmented forest and the effects of forestry in reducing the availability of that habitat type (Mazur and James 2000). However, the western expansion of the Barred Owl has also raised concerns for possible displacement of the endangered Spotted Owl in some areas (Mazur and James 2000). Where their ranges overlap, territorial Barred Owls prevent Spotted Owls from using all available resources to successfully fledge young (Wiens and Forsman 2014).


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Boreal Softwood ShieldBoreal Softwood Shield, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Other
Boreal Taiga PlainsBoreal Taiga Plains, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Other
Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence PlainLower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, sub-region and priority type: Quebec -- Other