• Barn Owl
  • Barred Owl
  • Boreal Owl
  • Burrowing Owl
  • Eastern Screech Owl
    Eastern Screech
  • Elf Owl
  • Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
    Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
  • Flammulated Owl
  • Great Grey Owl
    Great Grey
  • Great Horned Owl
    Great Horned
  • Long Eared Owl
  • Northern Hawk Owl
    Northern Hawk
  • Northern Pygmy Owl
    Northern Pygmy
  • Northern Saw-whet Owl
    Northern Saw-whet
  • Short-eared Owl
  • Snowy Owl
  • Spotted Owl
  • Western Screech Owl
    Western Screech
  • Western Screech Owl
    Whiskered Screech Owl

GREAT HORNED OWL (Bubo virginianus)

Great Horned OwlAn owl with horns? Could it be so? Of course not! The Great “Horned” Owl is named for its large, conspicuous ear tufts, which resemble horns perched atop its head. Many people recognize and identify this owl by this noticeable characteristic. In fact, this is perhaps North America’s most well-known and recognizable owl. The Great Horned Owl is your classic owl. Perhaps it should be called the movie star owl, for if you’ve ever heard an owl hoot in the movies, it was most likely the Great Horned. In fact, if you’ve ever heard an owl hoot in your neighborhood, it was probably a Great Horned Owl, too. These big, powerful owls give the quintessential hoot: “Hooo-hoo-hoo-hooo.” And unlike many other owl species, these vocal birds can be heard hooting year-round and in a wide variety of habitats from forests to farmland to city parks and neighborhoods.  If you hear the hoot, look up and see if you can spot the “great horns” of the Great Horned Owl.

Maps provided by The Birds of North America Online and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

  • A large, bulky owl with prominent ear tufts, white throat, gray beak, and bright yellow eyes

    Males: back is mottled grayish-brown, chest and belly are rusty brown and heavily barred

    Females: same as male

    Young: more orange-brown than adults, white throat less pronounced, ear tufts shorter

  • Height: Males 51 cm (20.0 in), Females 60 cm (23.6 in)

    Weight: Males 1304g (2.9 lb), Females 1509g (3.3 lb)

    Wingspan: Males 134cm (52.7 in), Females 143 cm (56.2 in)
  • Range: found year-round in all parts of U.S. and Canada except far northern coastal areas

    Habitat: highly adaptable; can be found in a wide variety of habitats, including both coniferous and deciduous forests, swamp forests, mangroves, farmland, deserts, and even city parks

  • Mostly small mammals such as hares, ground squirrels, and voles; also preys on birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, and insects
  • Deep, booming hoots

    Males: during breeding, a series of evenly spaced low pitched “hoo”s; to contact other owls or defend territory, often will give a soft, double hoot

    Females: higher pitched than males

  • Nest Site: a variety of nesting sites; most commonly abandoned nests of Red-tailed Hawk and other birds or squirrels, but also tree cavities, cactus, haylofts, manmade nest platforms, cliffs, and caves

    Eggs: 1-4 dull white eggs, laid asynchronously, hatching about 2 days apart

    Incubation: 30-37 days

Great Horned Owl Range Map

Great Horned Owl Range Map

Great Horned Owl Audio

Great Horned Owl Facts

Other Names: None
Family: Strigidae
Closest Relative: Snowy Owl

Conservation Status

Not globally threatened; some decline of U.S. populations.