Great Horned Owl

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Scientific Name:

  • Bubo virginianus.

Distribution:

  • Highly distributed throughout most of North and South America.

Habitat:

  • Wide variety of wooded habitat; forests, swamps, deserts, rocky areas, farmland and urban areas from sea level to 12,000 feet.

Diet:

  • Small to medium mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish insects, and occasionally carrion if other food is scarce; one of the few animals known to prey on skunks due to their lack of a sense of smell.

Behavior:

  • Hunts at dusk and during the night from a perch, while flying low over the ground, walking on the ground, or wading into water; among the earliest-breeding birds in North America; territories are claimed in the fall, and breeding takes place in January or early February; nesting is done in other birds’ stick nests, natural tree hollows, man-made platforms, or on cliff ledges or cave entrances; female lays 1-3 eggs and incubates for 26-35 days; young birds start to wander away from the nest in 6-7 weeks at which point they are called “branchers”; they are fully flighted at 10-12 weeks; fledglings are tended by the parents for up to 5 months; maturity is reached at 2 years.

Identification:

  • Largest owl native to North America; adults have large ear tufts which are not actually ears, but large tufts of feathers; face is reddish, brown or gray with a white patch on the throat; iris is yellow; underparts are light with brown barring; upper parts are mottled brown; legs and feet are feathered up to the talons; owls have binocular vision and the ability to turn their heads a full 270 degrees; an owl’s hearing is as good as, if not better, than its vision; owls have stereo hearing which allows them to triangulate the location of prey.
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