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Great Horned Owl

Bubo virginianus

Family:

Strigidae, the owl family.

Conservation Status:

Least Concern IUCN.

Distribution:

The Americas from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego.

Habitat:

All types of habitats and climatic variations.

Factoid:

They will attack intruders near their nests, even humans.

Large owls with prominent ear tufts, huge yellow eyes and white throat patches, their mottled brown, gray and white plumage provides great camouflage.

Their feathered facial discs collect sounds which are received by asymmetrical ear openings for exceptional hearing and their eyes face straight forward for binocular vision. Their silent flight is made possible by soft feathers and fringed leading edges of primary feathers which together muffle the sounds of wing beats. Their toes are set “four-square” and tipped with long, very strong, sharp claws. They have the most identifiable owl call — a rich, deep “whoo whoo”.

They will eat anything they can catch and subdue – the widest variety and heaviest of prey species of all North American owls. Prey is swallowed whole or torn into chunks. Non-digestible parts are regurgitated in pellets 6-10 hours after feeding. Adults have no natural enemies besides man.

In North America, hooting duets of courting pairs can be heard in November and December. Partners bow low with drooped wings and tail up, hooting back and forth and mating occurs in January and February. They use the old nests of red-tailed hawks or other large birds, or hollow trees or ledges, in which 2-3 eggs are laid. Incubation is 5 weeks, and owlets fledge at 10 weeks.

 

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