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Great-horned Owl

Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae
Genus: Bubo
Species: virginianus

La. strix, strigis  owl
La. forma  form, shape, kind
La. bubo  eagle-owl
La. virginianus  for Virginia

Largest North American Owl, about two feet long with a four foot or greater wing span. Barred with varying brown and gray tones mixed with white on its underside.

Great Horned Owl, John L. Ridgway, Hawks and Owls of the United States, 1893
John L. Ridgway
White throat patch. Ear tufts give the illusion of horns. Long curved talons. Large intimidating yellow and black forward facing eyes are immovable requiring it to turn its head so much it seems it might twist off.

Inhabits woodlands, scattered groves in open ranges, deserts, canyons, farms, or even towns from the as far north as there are trees in Alaska and Canada, and throughout North and Central America, to the Straits of Magellan at the southern tip of South America.

USGS Great Horned Owl Map

Often claims other hawk, eagle, or crow nests, builds nests high in trees (as high as 100 feet) of sticks, twigs, bark and feathers in cavities, or cliff ledges which are normally abandoned after one brood season. Usually remains within a few miles of its nest year around.

Lays two or three dull white eggs which hatch after about a month of incubation and young remain in the nest for about another two months.

Its night vision, keen hearing, and swift silent flight make dusk to dawn the ideal time to hunt totally unsuspecting prey. Mostly rodents, small mammals, poultry, game birds and song birds, the bones, fur and feathers of which adorn their nests and the ground below. Also eats water foul, fish, even skunks, and sometimes makes the mistake of attacking a porcupine. Great Horned Owls are so bold many are injured or killed attacking prey.

You've may have seen flocks of crows, magpies, or noisy songbirds chasing hawks or owls. Annoying mobs are the smaller species' only defense against these predators. A hawk will usually fly while a Great Horned Owl will often perch pretending to be indifferent until it finally has had enough.
Its observant appearance and success as a hunter give it a reputation of being wise. Its deep eerie hoots give it a place in superstitious folklore, and its blood curdling scream can only be fully appreciated when alone in a forest after dark.

For the Great Horned Owl, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommends a square platform 24 inches on each side (same as for the Red-tailed Hawk.)  Mount 14' or higher on a sturdy post or structure on a forest edge or in a clearing adjacent to the tree line.

2' x 2' Nesting Platform for Red-tailed Hawks and Great Horned Owls

The chances of attracting an owl to any particular platform are probably slim.  Maybe a properly positioned platform in or next to an isolated grove, canyon, or desert somewhere might attract a pair of young owls.

Considering how well the Great Horned Owl has thrived, even in hard times when prey is scarce and other species are struggling, it needs little assistance.

Still, you can fairly easily observe the bird in its natural habitat, or from around a campfire, which they seem to be attracted to, especially since they are almost everywhere.


Great Horned Owl, F. C. Hennessey, Birds of Eastern Canada, P.A.Traverner, 1922

F.C. Hennessey

Great Horned Owl, Wood Notes Wild, Simeon Pease Cheney, 1892


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