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Great Horned Owl Facts

Common Name(s): Grand-duc d'Amérique, Búsho cornudo

Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus

Approximate Wing Span: 39.8–57.1 in, 101–145 cm

Approximate Life Span: Record of 28 Years

Natural Habitat: Open Woodland


The Great Horned Owl has a very menacing appearance with long tuffs and deep yellow eyes. These characteristics have qualified this raptor as a classic, hair-raising asset to a variety of scary movies, books and much more. Apart from its terrifying appearance, the Great Horned Owl is a stunning example of natural selection with a wide wingspan, a keen sense of hearing and eyesight as well as powerful talons.

This owl is characterized as having a variety of colorations based on the region in North and South America. However, their body color does remain somewhat consistent with a mostly white chest with streaked brown bars. The shoulders and wings are tinted brown and the raptor’s face is mostly tan with a white mustache. The Great Horned Owl also has a black facial disk bordered around the face.


This raptor is found all around the United States and South America in forested and secondary-growth woodlands next to open fields, wetlands or croplands. This strategic location enables them to hunt for prey by perching on tall trees and scanning the area below them. You can sometimes spot these birds of prey in wooded parks, suburban areas and in cities.

Food & Hunting

Great Horned Owls prey on a large selection of animals ranging from hares to tiny rodents and even scorpions. If anything is within their grasp, they will usually eat it. For the most part, the Great Horned Owl eats mostly mammals including moles, rats, gophers, squirrels, chipmunks, marmots and much more. They are also known to eat prairie dogs, skunks and house cats as well as a plethora of birds including other owls, hawks, crows, ravens, doves and starlings. If a mammal isn’t in site, these owls also catch reptiles and marine animals and sometimes carrion.

Great Horned Owls mostly hunt during the night (nocturnal), however if food is scarce they will hunt in broad daylight. They usually roost in high areas to scan the landscape below. Once prey is spotted, they pursue prey by diving towards it. These raptors are also known to stalk prey on the ground.


One notable behavior characteristic of the Great Horned Owl is their action towards intruders. If these raptors notice an intruder they will scream, hiss or make guttural noises to scare away the invader. If the intruder gets to close, the owl will start to flap its wings and striking their feet.


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