Great Horned Owl

Bubo virginianus

  • Classification: Bird
  • Lifespan in Captivity: 30yrs
  • Lifespan in the Wild: 15yrs
  • Wingspan: 3-4ft
  • Weight: 1-2lbs
  • Range: North America
  • Habitat: Forest, desert, open country, very adaptable to different environments
    • Diet in the Wild: raccoons, rodents, rabbits, squirrels, skunks, songbirds, falcons, other owls
    • Diet at Wildlife Images: rodents, poultry, donated meats, venison


The great horned owl is the most common owl of the Americas, easily recognized by the feather tufts on its head. These ‘plumicorns’ resemble horns or catlike ears. These owls are incredibly opportunistic, they tend to hunt at night but have even been known to hunt in broad daylight. They are ferocious predators, and make regular meals out of small mammals. These animals are the only natural predator of skunks in the wild most likely due to lacking a sense of smell. Owls are ambush predators, using their silent flight abilities to sneak up and pounce on their prey. Great horned owls make the classic hooting sound that we so often associate with all owls, when in fact, there is a wide variety of vocalizations that owls make. Compared to their size, the great horned owl has an impressive grip strength. They can squeeze anywhere from 200 to over 500 psi (pounds per square inch) with their feet, which is similar to the strength of a bald eagle!

Description: Two prominent feathered tufts on the head; broad, rounded wings; mottled gray-brown in color, with reddish brown faces and a neat white patch on throat


  • Mainly nocturnal; will hunt in daylight in winter
  • Monogamous
  • Will go after large prey, such as other raptors
  • Can swivel head over 180 degrees
  • Roost in trees, snags, thick brush, cavities, ledges, and human-made structures

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