Great Horned Owl
Description 25" Tall 4' 7" Wingspan
A large owl, varying in color from nearly
white (in Arctic) to dark brown and gray.
Mottled and streaked below, setting off the
white throat; prominent, widely spaced ear
tufts. The legs and feet are thickly
feathered with only the talons exposed.
The eyes are large and yellow.
Sexes are similar, although females tend
to be larger and more heavily marked.
Coloration varies both individually and
regionally. Birds in the east tend to be
more richly colored with orangish facial
discs. Those from the far north and desert
areas are paler with gray faces. Birds from
the far West and from tropical areas are
the darkest, with dark reddish facial discs.
The largest of American "eared" owls, the
Great Horned is exceeded in size only by
the rare Great Gray Owl. It is the largest
and best known of the common owls.
Habitat The Great Horned Owl is found
in a greater variety of habitats than any
other owl. It inhabits deciduous forests,
coniferous forests up to about 11,000 feet,
swamps, coastal mangroves, rocky desert
canyons, and even city parks.
Diet The Great Horned Owl preys on a
wide variety of creatures, including grouse
and rabbits as well as beetles, lizards,
frogs, and birds, including crows, ducks,
and other owls. On occasion, it even
Occasionally, when Great Horned Owls
kill more prey than they can eat, they
cache the remains for later use. Great
Horned Owls will incubate frozen food
until it thaws and can be eaten.
Nesting In late fall and early winter, the
low muffled hooting of a Great Horned Owl
may carry great distances, signaling that
males are beginning to occupy breeding
territories. Males and females sometimes
sing duets. It is one of the first birds to
nest, laying its eggs as early as late
January, even when there is still snow on
2 or 3 white eggs on the bare surface of a
cliff or cave or even on the ground; in the
East it most often appropriates the
unused stick nest of a heron, hawk, or
The development of young Great Horned
Owls is prolonged over many months.
After nearly one month, helpless chicks
hatch, clad in white, eyes closed.
Although the nestlings are unable to fly for
ten to twelve weeks, they begin venturing
out onto nearby branches after about six
weeks. Because fledglings remain
dependent on their parents for food until
fall, their harsh begging calls may be
heard throughout the summer.
Range It has a vast range, from just
south of the Arctic tundra in Canada to the
pampas of South America.
Great Horned Owls in North America
reach their highest population densities in
eastern Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas,
and southern Saskatchewan, where
grassland meets forest.
They are less common in mountainous
regions and in the Mojave and Sonoran
Voice Series of low, sonorous,
far-carrying hoots, hoo, hoo-hoo, hoo, hoo,
with second and third notes shorter than
May 28, 2008 ~ This big guy swooped across the driveway and landed in the pines across the street.
Much to the consternation of many other birds. The chirping was frantic and robins were dive-bombing
him, but the only thing that made him take flight was a passing car.
It was fun to watch him sitting and slowly turning his head to keep a watch on all the bird activity and
chattering that his presence was creating, not to mention the dive-bombing robins.