The barred owl is one of four owls native to the United States depicted on the set of four stamps printed together on the same pane.
Barred owls are one of our more common owls. They are very large, up to 20 inches tall, with a wingspan of almost four feet. This owl is grayish-brown with crossbars on its chest and neck. Barred owls don't have ear-tufts like some other owls. They have dark eyes, and a small, hooked bill. Barred owls have strong, sharp yellow talons on their feet.
This owl lives in woods, usually with a lot of pine trees, and always near water. Woods near swamps will almost always have a good population of barred owls. Barred owls, like most owls, are not very active during the day. They stay in their nests until night, when they come out to hunt. Barred owls have excellent night vision and hearing to locate prey. Barred owls eat a large variety of prey, including: mice, voles, shrews, moles, rats, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, opossums, bats, birds (including smaller owls), frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, crayfish, insects, slugs, and fish.
Barred owls usually will find a favorite hunting perch. They stay at their perch and swoop down on prey, grabbing it with their sharp talons. Barred owls swallow their prey whole. Their stomach acids will digest the soft parts of their prey, and then they will regurgitate (throw up) a pellet, with the bones and hair. You can find a barred owl's favorite eating place by observing all the pellets on the ground below.
Barred owls sometimes go fishing. They will wade knee-deep in water and catch fish or crayfish with their feet. Barred owls live alone, except when mating or raising young.
Barred owls get ready to mate in late winter. They begin by calling and responding. When a male and female approach each other, they will both do a sort of courtship "dance." They will nod, bow, and spread their wings, as well as shake their heads. Once together, owls stay together. The same males and females will find each other the following year.
Barred owls nest in tree cavities or in old crow, hawk, or squirrel nests. These birds lay two to four eggs, and the female will sit on them for about a month, while the male hunts. Once baby owls are born, the male will continue to hunt, bringing the mother and the babies food. At first, he will regurgitate food for the young; later he will feed them whole prey. Young owls eat the same foods as adults.
Young owls are ready to fly in about six weeks, but sometimes they don't leave their parents for six months! Barred owls have few predators. The most important one is another owl, the great horned owl.
Barred owls are also known for the wide range of sounds they make. Many people have been frightened by noises they heard, not knowing it was only an owl. The most common noise is the mating call. The male calls out and the female responds. Barred owls make many other noises including various hoots, whines, and squeals. They can sound like barking dogs or whooping monkeys. They also make sounds like humans, including a scream like someone in great pain and one that sounds like laughter.