Species Spotlight: Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)

May 15, 2009, 10:09 am

Hoot! Hoot! All about the Great Horned Owl!

Great horned owls are named for their prominent ear tufts, which look like horns, or sometimes ears. The tufts are, in fact, not ears (which are located on the sides of their heads) but rather tufts of feathers. The location of their ears, combined with the ability to rotate their heads more than 180 degrees in either direction, gives them highly sensitive “3-D hearing” that allows them to locate and lock in on prey. Their large yellow eyes, another distinguishing feature, provide excellent night vision, and their soft feathers allow for silent flight, making them stealthy hunters.

Diet: These formidable predators, sometimes referred to as “tigers with wings,” regularly kill and eat other owls, and also prey on fellow raptors, including peregrine falcons and ospreys. Their main diet consists of small mammals, including rabbits, but they also eat birds, amphibians, reptiles and insects.

Habitat: Great horned owls can survive in both forests and desert or grassland habitats. They are one of the most common owls North America, and often take over the nests of other birds in trees or on cliffs and buildings.

Main Predators: Great horned owls have few natural predators, but crows and raccoons steal eggs from nests and eat young owls.

Did You Know? These fearless birds of prey are the only animal that regularly kills and eats skunks. They can also eat as many as 4,000 mice per year!