Owl, Great Horned

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Physical Characteristics

Great horned owls have long, feathered tufts called “plumicorns” which resemble horns, or cat-like ears. Males are 2.5 to 3 lbs. and females are 3 to 4.5 lbs. Like other owls, their feathers are specific to soundless flight, so that they can swoop down silently on their prey. Their strong talons require a force of 28 lbs. to open when clenched, they use this deadly grip to sever the spine of larger prey. Their eyes are fixed in their sockets, but they can swivel their heads more than 180 degrees to look in any direction.


They are highly adaptable birds living from the Arctic to South America. They live in woodlands, swamps, orchards, agricultural areas, wooded parks, suburban areas and even in cities. They have the most diverse diet of all North American raptors, ranging from tiny rodents and scorpions to hares, skunks, geese and other raptors and birds.

Social Behavior

Great horned owls are solitary, primarily nocturnal raptors, most active during dusk and before dawn. Mated pairs are monogamous and defend their territories with vigorous hooting, especially in the winter before egg-laying and in the fall when their young leave the area.



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Fascinating Facts

    • Great horned owls are fierce predators that can take down large prey, including other raptors such as ospreys, peregrine falcons, prairie falcons and other owls.
    • Owls will sometimes swallow their prey whole and later regurgitate pellets composed of bone, fur and the other unwanted parts of their meal.


Status In The Wild

They are common and widespread throughout much of the Americas. They have declined just under 1% per year between 1966 and 2010. They rate 6 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score.

Waystation Residents

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