Sep 25, 2009

Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus

The Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus, is a large owl native to the Americas. It is an adaptable bird with a vast range and is the most widely distributed true owl in the Americas.

The Magellanic Horned Owl (B. magellanicus) of the Pacific Andes was for some time included in this species too.

Great Horned Owls are large, powerful, fierce predators, which rule the night sky. These birds possess “silent flight.” This means that their fringed flight feathers muffle the sound of their approach. In this way, their prey never hears them coming. Since these birds hunt from above and behind, their prey never sees them coming either. This translates into some very successful hunting for these big beautiful birds.

Physical Description

Great Horned Owls range up to 25 inches in length and with wing spans up to 5 feet in width. These owls are North America’s largest “eared” owls. The “ears” are actually tufts of feathers on the bird’s head. Great Horned owls are usually brownish with blackish spots and streaks. They possess paler under-parts and a whitish throat patch. Owls from forested habitats tend to be darker, while owls from open habitats tend to be lighter in plumage or feather patterning. These birds have large bright yellow eyes and huge feathered feet with razor sharp black claws called talons.

Family Life

Mother Great Horned Owls lay 2 to 3 eggs in January of February. Both mother and father Great Horned Owls take turns incubating (sitting on to warm) their eggs for 26 to 30 days. The young are fledged (grow their adult flight feathers) by June. Owlets, like their parents, are aggressive and solitary once they leave the nest.

Diet

Rabbits, squirrels, mice, woodchucks, raccoons, snakes, bats, foxes, ducks, swans, other birds of prey, frogs, fish, scorpions and porcupines!

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