Great Horned Owl

Bubo virginianus

Found from the Arctic tundra to the tropical rainforest, from the desert to suburban backyards, the Great Horned Owl is one of the most widespread and common owls in North America.

Interesting Information

  • The Great Horned Owl is the only animal that regularly eats skunks.

  • The Great Horned Owl will take large prey, even other raptorial birds. It regularly kills and eats other owls, and is an important predator on nestling Ospreys. The reintroduction of Peregrine Falcons has been hampered in some areas by owls killing both adult and nestling falcons.

  • The Great Horned Owl is a regular victim of harassment from flocks of American Crows. Crows congregate from long distances to mob owls, and may continue yelling at them for hours. The enmity of the crows is well earned, however, as the owl is probably the most important predator on adult crows and nestlings.

  • Even though the female Great Horned Owl is larger than her mate, the male has a deeper voice. Pairs often call together, with audible differences in pitch.

  • A group of owls has many collective nouns, including a "bazaar", "glaring", "parliament", "stooping", and "wisdom" of owls.

  • In frigid areas, where larger prey cannot be eaten quickly, they may let uneaten food freeze and then thaw it out later using their own body heat.

  • The Great Horned Owl will eat birds ranging in size from kinglets to Great Blue Herons and regularly eat other owls.

  • The reintroduction of Peregrine Falcons has been hampered in some areas by owls killing both adult and nestling falcons.


Adult Description

  • Length Range: 46-64 cm (18-25 in)

  • Weight: 1360 g (48 oz)

  • Size: Large (16 - 32 in)

  • Color Primary: Brown, Gray

  • Underparts: Red-brown with dark barring and white upper breast.

  • Upperparts: Dark brown with gray-brown mottling.

Sex Differences

Sexes Similar


Immature like adult. Fledges from nest while still downy around the head and without noticeable ear tufts.


Photo taken from: The Sibley Field Guide by David Allen Sibley

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology


  • Found in a wide variety of habitats, but prefers open and secondary-growth woodlands and agricultural areas.

  • Also in boreal forest, desert, and suburban and urban areas.


Hunts at night, mostly from perches next to open areas.


Broad diet of animals, from small mammals to rabbits, geese, and herons. Some birds, amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates, but mostly mammals.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae
    Subfamily: Striginae
Genus: Bubo
Species: Bubo virginianus
    Subspecies: Bubo virginianus algistus
  Bubo virginianus elachistus
  Bubo virginianus heterocnemis
  Bubo virginianus lagophonus
  Bubo virginianus mayensis
  Bubo virginianus mesembrinus
  Bubo virginianus nacurutu
  Bubo virginianus nigrescens
  Bubo virginianus pacificus
  Bubo virginianus pallescens
  Bubo virginianus saturatus
  Bubo virginianus subarcticus
  Bubo virginianus virginianus

Similar Species

  • Long-eared Owl slimmer, with proportionately larger ear tufts that are closer together on head.

  • Barred Owl without ear tufts, has streaking, not barring on underparts, and has dark eyes.

Bird Sound

Call a deep hooting "hoo-h'HOO--hoo-hoo." Young make a loud, raspy screech.

Eggs look like this

Photo taken from: ARCTOS Collaborative Collection Management Solution