GREAT HORNED OWL

Bubo virginianus

TOP 5 ID TIPS: GREAT HORNED OWLS

  • Very large, stocky owl

  • Enormous bright yellow eyes

  • Mottled grey, brown, and tan body with bright white chin plumage

  • Tall feather tufts - which look like horns or ears - angled on the top of their head.

  • Black bill

© KURT LINDSAY

GREAT HORNED OWL QUICK FACTS:

A large, bulky owl with prominent ear tufts, white throat, gray beak, and bright yellow eyes

Males: back is mottled grayish-brown, chest and belly are rusty brown and heavily barred

Females: same as male

Young: more orange-brown than adults, white throat less pronounced, ear tufts shorter

FAMILY:

 

Strigidae


CLOSEST RELATIVE:

 

Snowy Owl

GREAT HORNED OWL SIZE:

Height: Males 51 cm (20.0 in), Females 60 cm (23.6 in)

Weight: Males 1304g (2.9 lb), Females 1509g (3.3 lb)

Wingspan: Males 134cm (52.7 in), Females 143 cm (56.2 in)

GREAT HORNED OWL RANGE:

Found year-round in all parts of U.S. and Canada except far northern coastal areas

 

GREAT HORNED OWL HABITAT:

 

Highly adaptable; can be found in a wide variety of habitats, including both coniferous and deciduous forests, swamp forests, mangroves, farmland, deserts, and even city parks

GREAT HORNED OWL DIET:

Mostly small mammals such as hares, ground squirrels, and voles; also preys on birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, and insects

GREAT HORNED OWL VOICE:

Deep, booming hoots

Males: during breeding, a series of evenly spaced low pitched “hoo”s; to contact other owls or defend territory, often will give a soft, double hoot

Females: higher pitched than males

GREAT HORNED OWL NESTING:

Nest Site: a variety of nesting sites; most commonly abandoned nests of Red-tailed Hawk and other birds or squirrels, but also tree cavities, cactus, haylofts, manmade nest platforms, cliffs, and caves

Eggs: 1-4 dull white eggs, hatching about 2 days apart

Incubation: 30-37 days

GREAT HORNED OWL HUNTING HABITS:

Opportunistic but primarily a nocturnal perch hunter. Takes a wide variety of prey, often hunts along forest edges, meadows and patchily forested open country.

GREAT HORNED OWL CONSERVATION STATUS: 

Not globally threatened; some decline of U.S. populations.

Great Horned Owl

© Jon Bertsche

GREAT HORNED OWL DISTRIBUTION IN NORTH AMERICA

great horned owl, great horned owl distribution

Map provided by The Birds of North America Online and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Great Horned Owl - Denver Holt
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© Kurt Lindsay