great horned owl

35 Fun Facts About The Great Horned Owl (Detailed)

The Great Horned Owl is one of the most iconic birds in North America. They are powerful predators that can be found all over the continent, and they even live as far south as Argentina. This article will give you 35 facts about this bird to help you get acquainted with it better! 


  • Identification: The Great Horned Owl is one of the most common owls in North America, found all across the continent. It has distinct features, due to its large size and coloration patterns. They have large round heads, and are typically a spotted brownish-gray with reddish-brown coloration on their faces and throat area (some will have a white v-shaped marking on the throat). The great horned owl also has prominent “horns” that are positioned over their ears on either side of the head, giving it its name. They have a black 1.5-inch hooked beak with a downward curve, as well as large yellow eyes with black pupils.
  • Length: 17.7-25.2 in (45-64 cm)
  • Weight: 32.2-88.2 oz (912-2500 g)
  • Wingspan: 39.4-57.5 in (100-146 cm)
  • Order: Strigiformes
  • Family: Strigidae
  • Genus: Bubo
  • Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus
  • Range: North America, Central America, South America, and Mexico.
  • Habitat:  They prefer forests, deserts, mountain ranges and grasslands.
  • Diet: Mostly small mammals such as rabbits, rodents, skunks and opossums; it also includes other animals like reptiles, amphibians and birds up to the size of grouse or even larger prey. 
  • North American Population: est. 3.9 million individuals.
  • Global Population: est. 6 million.
  • Conservation Status: Listed Least Concern (Population is stable).
  • Nesting Behavior: The Great Horned Owl is a large bird that reuses old nests from eagles, squirrels, ospreys, crows and hawks. The owl’s nesting behavior varies depending on the time of year and the location. The female lays about four eggs per clutch, and she incubates them by herself for about 30-37 days before they hatch. After hatching, the male takes care of his offspring until they are ready to leave the nest after about 8 weeks.
  • Incubation Length: 29-32 days
  • Nestling Length: 40-42 days
  • Clutch Size: 1-4 eggs
  • Number of Broods: 1 Brood

Great Horned Owls are found in a variety of habitats.

Great horned owls are found in a variety of habitats, including coniferous and deciduous woodlands, mountainous areas, open country, or even semi-desert scrubland or urban areas. They seem to prefer lowlands that have wooded areas for nesting and perching, as well as a nearby source of water.

Females are 20% larger than males

A male can grow to be 16-19 inches (40.6-48.3 cm) long and weigh 1.5-2.7 pounds (0.7-1.2 kg). The female will tend to be about 20% larger, measuring between 17-22 inches (43.1-55.9 cm) in length and weighing between 3.5-5.5 pounds (1.6-2.5 kg).

Great Horned Owls typically mate for life.

Great Horned Owls typically mate for life. This is because they are monogamous and once a pair has bonded, it usually stays together until one of them dies. 

Great Horned Owls are generally solitary creatures.

Great horned owls are generally solitary creatures. They hunt by night to catch their prey, either by picking it out of dense vegetation or waiting on a perch for prey to come to them. They are also extremely territorial creatures meaning that they will not tolerate another great horned owl near their own territory. 

Great Horned Owl roosting
Photo by Bicanski on Pixnio

Predators of the Great Horned Owls.

The main predators of the great horned owls are large cats such as lynx, or cougars as well as humans because they find them very easy prey.

They have adaptations that make hunting for food easy.

The great horned owl is a nocturnal creature that uses the darkness of night to avoid predators and hunt for food. Their excellent hearing allows them to pick out prey in the dark. They have a number of adaptations that make hunting for food easier in the night, including pupils that expand when it’s dark and sensors in their beak, which can pick up small differences in temperature.

They also have ear tufts, which they display when they are agitated or annoyed with their surroundings. These tufts can be erected at anytime, not just when they are upset.

Great Horned Owls are active at night, and rest during the day.

Great horned owls are active at night, and during the day they rest in a tree or on the ground with their wings tucked into their body. When disturbed, the great horned owl will direct their head and neck downwards and look down them and at their feet as they hold this position for about two minutes before returning to a normal resting position.

They will also make a series of soft hooting or screaming sounds as this is what they use to communicate with each other, although their calls usually consist of single, repetitive notes which may include hoots and screeching sounds such as those that they use when warning others of an intruder.

The Great Horned Owl’s preferred diet.

The great horned owl’s diet consists of rodents of small to medium sizes, which includes hamsters, gerbils and rabbits. They also consume some insects and frogs. Their diet may be supplemented by fruit during the winter months, when they are restricted to living in forest areas.

They may also consume small reptiles such as skinks, and snakes occasionally. They will also eat fruits like acorns or chestnuts, which can be found at the tops of trees in winter.

The life expectancy of a Great Horned Owl.

The average life expectancy of a Great Horned Owl in the wild is 13-15 years, while their life expectancy in captivity is between 20 and 30 years. There are a number of factors that contribute to this disparity between their lifespan in captivity and their lifespan in the wild. These include diet, predation from other animals, habitat destruction and injury from larger predators such as coyotes or wolves.

Great Horned Owl newborns are born with their eyes closed.

Great horned owl babies are born with their eyes closed, but open them when they’re about two weeks old. This is just in time for the owlets to start looking out of the nest, but the owls cannot see very well at this point.

They are nearsighted for their first few months in the nest and can only make out large shapes or differences in light intensity. The owl chicks start seeing much better when they are about 8 weeks old.

Newborns are called “Owlets”.

The newborn owls that hatch from the eggs of a Great Horned Owl is called “owlets”. The term pertains to birds who have not yet fledged (laid its first flight feathers). Owlets stay in their nest or on branches with their parents until they learn how to fly and hunt for themselves.

They feed newborns by regurgitating their food.

Great Horned Owls feed their young ones by swallowing whole small animals and then regurgitating the food into their mouths. The mother will pick up the prey with her talons and squeeze it down into the baby’s open mouth. This process of eating may seem unusual, but this strategy is actually quite common among owls.

Great Horned Owls talons have incredible crushing power.

The talons of a Great Horned Owl are incredibly strong. They can exert 300 – 500 PSI of crushing power, which is more than enough to kill small animals like rabbits and mice in one quick swoop! Their sharp claws make it easy for the owl to get a grip on its prey before delivering the death blow.

They have talons that measure 4 to 8 inches.

Great Horned Owls have talons that measure 4 to 8 inches. The purpose of their talons is to hold onto prey and keep it from escaping. Their grip can be so strong, in fact, that they are able to carry animals up to three times their own weight! 

They can rotate their heads 270 degrees.

One of the most striking things about owls is their head rotation. What many people don’t know is that these owls can rotate their necks 270 degrees without breaking anything in their neck or spine. This fascinating ability, which lets them see in all directions, also makes it possible for them to eat without moving from where they are perched or sitting. 

The secret to this flexibility lies in the vertebrae which do not have any joints between them so they can twist freely on each other. The range of motion is enhanced by long muscles called levator muscles that stretch from the cervical vertebrae to the skin of the neck.

Great Horned Owl​​​​​​​s are known for their excellent vision.

Great Horned Owls can see 3 times better than humans and are able to see a mouse up to a mile away. This superior vision has given them the status of one of the most feared hunters on earth because they are so effective at night, hunting for their prey with precision accuracy.

Owls’ eyesight comes from two types of light-sensitive cells, rods and cones, that work together perfectly in harmony . Owls have a special membrane, called the “nictitating membrane,” that closes to protect their eyes from debris and other objects while they hunt.​​​​​​​

Great Horned Owls make a wide range of sounds.

Great horned owls are a type of owl that have been known to make a wide range of sounds. These can be anything from hisses to whistles, shrieks and coos. They use these sounds as warning signals, when disturbed by humans or predators and prey. The range of sounds they make can be anything from hisses to whistles to shrieks and coos.

  • Hoots and Hisses: Great horned owls will often use their “hoot” sound as a warning signal to other animals in the area or when disturbed by humans who come too close. They also hiss at predators and prey before striking them with their sharp talons.
  • Shrieks: Great horned owls are known for their screeching cry, which is used as a signal to their young.
  • Coos: Great horned owls will often use their “hoot” sound as a warning signal to other animals in the area or when disturbed by humans who come too close. They also coo at each other when courting and mating.

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