Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) at Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Delta, BC, Canada.
The Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) is a large owl that can be reddish brown, grey or black and white in color. Females are often larger than males. The facial disc is slightly orange. Its breast has a band of white feathers closer to the face, and its underside is grey with distinctive dark grey barring. The “horns” referred to in its name are only tufts of feathers, that are neither horns nor ears. This owl has a curved upper beak that can reach 1.5 inches long in adults. They have a really long neck, even though it appears that the neck is only short. They have huge, thick, heavy feet with big talons that can reach up to 1.5 inches long that are completely covered in feathers. The tips of the Great Horned Owl’s wings have a separation of feathers, called slots. These slots help with lift and maneuverability when moving through forests to hunt.

This owl is found throughout North America and in Central and South America in dense forests, deserts and plains, and even city parks. Some may migrate from northern ranges to the southern ranges of North America. This owl is known to become aggressive when threatened. They begin nesting in January or February in the old nest of a crow or hawk, and sometimes a hollow tree. They lay 2-4 eggs that the female incubate and are protective of their young to the point of attack.

The Great Horned owl usually begins hunting at dusk, where it can find voles, mice, rabbits, skunks, house cats, insects, small birds, pheasants and grouse as prey. In Canada, the Great Horned owl often predates on the snowshoe hare, which can reach approximately 3 pounds in weight!

Photo: Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) at Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Delta, BC, Canada. brendan.lally