Great Horned Owl Journal

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Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)

Nearly two feet tall, the Great Horned Owl is our largest native owl with ear tufts. Males and females are similar in appearance although the female is slightly larger. Among the fiercest of avian hunters, this impressive bird of prey carries a sense of power and dignity. It eats an exceptional variety of prey: rodents form the bulk of its diet, but it also attacks birds as large as geese and turkeys, and is one of the few predators of skunks. Apparently it is tolerant of their offensive odor.

The Great Horned Owl is widely distributed throughout North America. From the Arctic, where it is almost white in color, the bird ranges as far south as Florida, Texas and Mexico. It often lives in deep pine, hemlock or spruce woods broken by hardwoods, and uses old nests of hawks, herons, crows or squirrels. Great Horned Owls may also displace bald eagles from their nests. These owls may begin nesting as early as February, even in northern parts of their range, and it is not uncommon to see the birds incubating eggs during snow storms.

Although they have a variety of vocalizations, one of their better known calls is a deep, resonant five hoots, ventriloquistic in nature. Pairs hoot often during winter courtship. On a still, moonlit night their calls can carry up to one mile. Great Horned Owls are permanent residents in the more temperate part of their range, but those in more northern parts migrate south each winter.

artwork and text by Steve Sierigk © 2000

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