STATUS IN THE WILD: Least Concern
RANGE: North America and parts of South America
PHYSICAL FEATURES AND CHARACTERISTICS
Great horned owls are the most common owls of the Americas. They are considered a migratory bird. They are large, thick-bodied owls, with two prominent feathered tufts on the top of their head. They have rounded broad wings with an average wingspan of three to five feet. Great horned owls are dappled grey-brown bodied, with reddish-brown faces, and a pronounced white patch over their throat. They have bright yellow eyes and the ability to turn their heads 270 degrees without shifting their bodies. Their call is a deep stuttering series of four to five hoots. Great horned owls have great hearing and binocular vision that helps them catch their prey. They also have incredibly strong and sharp talons and beaks that are used to shred their prey. The talons can exude a force of 28 pounds of pressure.
LIFESTYLE AND REPRODUCTION
Great horned owls are nocturnal with an average life span of about five to 15 years in the wild. The great horned owl is a fierce and patient hunter. They will sit on a perch and watch and listen for their prey. Typically, they will choose a perch in a place that overlooks a flatland so they can easily see their prey. They will glide down, scoop up their prey with their powerful talons, and carry it off before eating it. This maneuver makes it almost impossible for the prey to hear the owl coming.
Great horned owls take lifelong mates, and females are usually bigger in size than the males. The couple typically uses abandoned nests of other birds as a place to lay their eggs but can also utilize dead snags, deserted buildings, and cliff ledges. After one to five eggs are laid, both parents incubate the eggs for about four weeks. After hatching, both owls take part in protecting the young chicks. Great horned owls have even been known to attack people that wander too close to the nest.
Great horned owls are adaptable birds and live from the Arctic to South America. The northern populations migrate in the winter but most live permanently in more moderate climates.
Great horned owls gravitate to woodland areas, but they are comfortable in suburbia, swamps, and farmlands. Typically, they like to be close to open lands, such as fields, wetlands, pastures, or croplands.
Great horned owls have a very diverse diet. They prey on everything from tiny rodents and scorpions to rabbits, skunks, geese, and raptors. Owls prefer mammals but will also supplement their diet with reptiles, fish, and invertebrates. After eating, they cough up a pellet, which consists of all the bones, hair, nails, and other indigestible parts of prey they ate in entirety.