Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
Great Horned Owls are recognized by their large size and prominent ear tufts, which resemble horns (hence the name “Great Horned”). They have striking yellow eyes and a facial disc that helps funnel sound to their ears for improved hearing. They are known for their deep hooting calls that carry over long distances, especially during the breeding season. Great Horned Owls are apex predators and have few natural predators themselves. They are highly territorial and fiercely defend their territory.
Great Horned Owls are highly adaptable and can be found in a wide range of habitats across the Americas. They are present from the Arctic regions of Canada and Alaska down to the southern parts of South America. They inhabit diverse ecosystems such as forests, woodlands, open plains, mountains, deserts, and even urban areas.
They are primarily nocturnal hunters, although they can also be active during dawn and dusk. They have a diverse diet and are opportunistic predators. Their prey includes small to medium-sized mammals such as rabbits, squirrels, skunks, and mice, as well as birds, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. They are capable of hunting and capturing prey both on the ground and in the air. Their hunting technique involves silent flight and precise swoops to surprise their prey.
Great Horned Owls typically utilize abandoned nests of other large birds such as hawks or crows. They may also occupy tree cavities or man-made structures like old buildings or cliffs and tall platforms. They are known to reuse nests year after year, making repairs and additions to them as needed.
Females lay 2 to 3 eggs, occasionally up to 5 eggs. The eggs are laid at intervals of one to three days. Incubation lasts around 30 to 37 days, and it is primarily the female’s responsibility. The male provides food for the female during this period. After hatching, the young owlets are raised by both parents. The parents continue to provide food for the chicks, and the female remains with the young while the male hunts. The young owls grow rapidly and begin to explore their surroundings within a few weeks.
The fledging period for Great Horned Owls occurs at around 6 to 7 weeks after hatching. During this time, the young owls leave the nest and move to nearby branches, where they continue to be fed and protected by their parents. They are dependent on their parents for several months until they become proficient hunters themselves.
Great Horned Owls generally do not migrate long distances. They may move within their range in search of food or suitable nesting sites.