- Bubo virginianus
46-63 cm (18.1-24.8 in)
Ws. over 4 ft
The quintessential owl
- Two tufts of feathers on either side of head
- Cat-like head shape
- Mostly brownish with patterning
- Northern birds are very pale
- Birds in Pacific Northwest are almost black
- Rust orange face
- White throat
- Buff below
- Pale, lightly feathered feet
- Gleaming golden eyes (amber in subspecies B.v. nacurutu).
- Powerful talons
A very widely distributed bird throughout the Americas. Great Horns are found from Alaska to Peru, mainly in forested areas; they also live in desert regions, where they nest in cacti. Published range maps do not include the Amazon Basin in South America; however, at least one Birdforum member has found a bird in an area north of the Amazon River in Brazil.
These birds are largely sedentary, though northern birds may irrupt, and there may be seasonal movement within territories.
Lesser Horned Owl was formerly included in this species.
Sixteen subspecies are recognized with some authors recognizing even more:
- B.v. algistus - coast of western Alaska (Kotzebue Sound south to Bristol Bay)
- B.v. lagophonus - Central Alaska to north-eastern Oregon and Montana; winters to Texas
- B.v. saturatus - Coastal south-western Alaska (Cook Inlet) to coastal central California
- B.v. pacificus - Coastal California to nw Baja California
- B.v. elachistus - Southern Baja California and Isla Espirito Santo
- B.v. subarcticus (occidentalis) - Mackenzie and north-western British Columbia to Hudson Bay, Wyoming, North Dakota
- B.v. pallescens - deserts of central and south-eastern California to Kansas and southern Mexico (Oaxaca)
- B.v. pinorum - Great Basin and Rocky Mountains in western United States, from northeastern California and southern Idaho south to northeastern Arizona, northern New Mexico, and west Texas (Guadalupe Mountains)
- B.v. heterocnemis - North-eastern Canada south to Great Lakes region
- B.v. virginianus - Minnesota east to the Atlantic and south to Texas and Florida
- B.v. mayensis - Yucatan peninsula
- B.v. mesembrinus - most of Central America
- B.v. nigrescens - Colombia to Ecuador and Peru
- B.v. nacurutu - lowland South America, from northern Colombia east to the Guianas, and from southeastern Peru easat to northeastern Brazil and northeastern Argentina
- B.v. deserti - north central Bahia (northeastern Brazil)
Varied habitats in its breeding range, from forest to city to open desert. Forest habitats, range from scrub through open woods to dense forests.
A fierce predator, known as the "Winged Tiger" or "Flying Tiger".
Will hunt small rodents, rabbits and hares, snakes, other birds (particularly waterfowl), and many other small animals. They have been known to pluck hawks and falcons from their nightly roosts, and they are some of the only animals which can hunt porcupines and skunks.
Great Horns are largely nocturnal, but will hunt in daylight if necessary. They are mainly perch hunters, sitting atop a favored vantage point (often at the edge of the forest) and scanning for prey.
Normally a stick nest in a tree built by some other species (like all owls they don't build their own nests). The young are cared for by both adults.
Most subspecies give a loud, booming hoot; hoo hu-hoo, hoo hoo.
- Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, S. M. Billerman, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2022. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2022. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
- Gill, F, D Donsker, and P Rasmussen (Eds). 2022. IOC World Bird List (v 12.2) DRAFT. Doi 10.14344/IOC.ML.12.2. http://www.worldbirdnames.org/
- BirdForum Member observations
- Artuso, C., C. S. Houston, D. G. Smith, and C. Rohner (2022). Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus), version 1.1. In Birds of the World (N. D. Sly, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.grhowl.01.1
- Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2019. Great_Horned_Owl in: All About Birds. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/ Accessed on 23May 2020.
- BirdForum Opus contributors. (2023) Great Horned Owl. In: BirdForum, the forum for wild birds and birding. Retrieved 2 December 2023 from https://www.birdforum.net/opus/Great_Horned_Owl
GSearch checked for 2020 platform.