Found throughout all but the northernmost parts of North America and parts of South America, this large stocky owl is well recognised by many as it is one of the most common owls on the continent. Characterised by its large ear tufts, mottled brown-gray plumage and white throat patch their color can vary depending on their location.
In addition they also have horizontal barring across their chests and bellies, this plumage gives them an almost perfect camouflage and blends them right into the trees they would be perched on. Their facial disk can be anywhere from gray, brown or reddish depending on their location and their eyes are a bright yellow except for the South American subspecies which has amber colored eyes. Their legs and feet are also covered by feathers.
At home in woodlands, this species is particularly fond of woods broken up by open fields. They can be found in a range of similar habitats including swamps, pastures, orchards and coniferous and deciduous forests.
This top predator is not picky when it comes to its diet, which can range from mice and voles all the way up in size to hares, skunks and geese. The actual list of its prey species is quite long but includes species of mammals, reptiles, fish, insects and even other birds. Mostly nocturnal hunters, they tend to stalk and look for prey from a perch and swoop down to catch it. They use their talons to catch and grasp their prey, their feet and talons are extremely powerful and can exert about 300 pounds per square inch of pressure.
They begin their nesting season in late winter. While they don’t build their own nests, they will reuse an old nests from other birds such as crows, hawks and herons. Being non-migratory and monogamous they stay on their territory all year and will hoot back and forth during courting. Males, while also being smaller, will have a lower call than females.
Common name: Great Horned Owl
Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus
Conservation Status: Least Concern
Estimated Population: 3.9 million
Weight: Average 1224g(males) to 1608g(females)
Distribution: North America and parts of South America
Preferred Habitat: Woodlands, Forests
Main Threats: Habitat loss, Rodenticides ( rat and mouse poison)
Random Great Horned Owl Facts:
- The oldest recorded wild great horned owl was 28 years old.
- There are 15 recognised subspecies
- American coots tend to be a favorite prey species for individuals living near wetlands and swamps.
- Their closest living relative is the snowy owl.