Great Horned Owl

(Bubo virginianus)

The Great Horned Owl, is the Second largest owl in North America, this bird can be found in all but the most arctic location of our Continent. It also is found in some locations of South America.

This large, powerful owl with prominent ear-tufts, prominent facial disks, and bold yellow eyes. Their plumage is a mix of mottled brown with white-and-black barring, with some white at the throat.

There is much variation in the darkness and shade of these colors across their range.

The female Owl is larger than her mate (almost 1/3 larger), the male has a deeper voice.

Pairs often call together, with audible differences in pitch.

Length: 18.1–24.8 in (46–63 cm )

Wingspan: 39.8–57.1 in (101–145 cm)

Weight: 32.1–88.2 oz (910–2500 g)


Great Horned Owls are supreme generalists. They are found in more varied habitats than any other owl in North America.

They often use wooded habitats, especially during the breeding season when trees or heavy brush provide cover. However they also nest in cliffs in arid areas far from trees. Their preferred habitat is open or fragmented woodland with treeless areas nearby.


Like most owls, this raptor has keen hearing and keen vision in low light, both adaptations for hunting at night. These aggressive and powerful hunters most commonly use a sit-and-wait approach, watching from a perch and swooping down on passing prey to seize it with their talons.


This bird of prey are opportunistic generalists, taking advantage of whatever prey is available. They have the widest prey base of any North American owl. In most places, most of their food consists of mammals such as rabbits, skunks, and large rodents.

They also eat a variety of birds, including grouse, coots, and several other species of owl.

To a lesser extent, they also take reptiles, amphibians, fish, and even large insects.

The Great Horned Owl is the only animal that regularly eats skunks and rehabilitators frequently comment on the smell.

Feathers are created and designed so there isn't a sound made. Yes, these birds are stealthy in every way.


Great Horned Owls are early nesters and begin calling in courtship in early winter. Monogamous pairs form long-term bonds. Though they sometimes nest in caves or on cliff ledges, they most often nest in deciduous trees.

These Owls do not build their own nests, but use nests built by hawks, crows, magpies, herons, or other large birds. Most are abandoned nests from previous years, but they are known to take over active nests.

Often puts nest in hollows or broken-off snags in trees.

They add no new nest material, since nesting typically begins in late January or February, before trees begin to leaf out, These large owls on the nest can often be seen easily. The female incubates 1-4 eggs for 30-37 days while the male brings her food.

The young remain in the nest for about 6 weeks, then climb out onto nearby branches. They begin taking short flights at 7 weeks, and can fly well at 9-10 weeks. Both parents feed and tend the young for several months, often as late as September or October.

Conservation Status:

Great Horned Owls are widespread and common. They adapt well to change and are doing well in most areas.

Great Horned Owls and Other Common Birds

Native Trees for Habitat

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