Great Horned Owl Fact Sheet

Common Name:

Great Horned Owl, Tiger Owl

Scientific Name:

Bubo Virginianus

Wild Status:

Least Concern


Forests, woodlands, shrublands, streamsides, cliffsides, deserts


Throughout North America, Central America, and South America


Make nests inside of hollow trees, caves or barns. They may steal nests made by hawks and crows, or take over a squirrel’s home in a tree hole

Life Span:

5-15 years


18 to 25 inches; wingspan: 3.3 to 4.8 feet

Cool Facts:

  • It is a myth that owls can turn their head all the way around, they can only turn their head as far as 270 degrees.
  • They have opposable outer toes to get a better grip on their prey.
  • Owls can see approximately 35-100 times better than humans in dim light.
  • Owls' eyes are in a fixed postion, only looking forward. They can't maneuver them from side to side. To look around they must turn their heads.
  • They eat prey whole and later regurgitate their bones.


The Great Horned Owl is one of North America’s largest owl species. Though they are also the most widespread, they are great camouflagers and nocturnal so rarely are they spotted. Great Horned Owls get their name from their ears, they have feather tufts that resemble horns. This trait is used for territorial display. These raptors have binocular eyesight (even in low light) and amazing hearing, but little to no sense of smell. They also have hooked beaks to not interfere with their vision. Horned Owls have soft feathers on the edge of their wings to allow them to fly silently and ambush prey or they may also walk around on the ground to stalk small animals. During Winter, these birds store live prey and come back in the future to thaw out the frozen carcass, and they do this by incubating it. Great Horned Owls will eat just about anything— from mammals to birds, reptiles, fish, invertebrates and even insects. They will even sometimes hunt during the day. You will know if a Great Horned Owl is near by hearing their famous "Hoot Hoot" call.

Taxonomic Breakdown:

Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Aves Order: Strigiformes Family: Strigidae Genus: Bubo Species: Virginianus

Conservation & Helping:

The Great Horned Owl's population is stable and increasing. Populations fluctuate due to prey population but they are highly adaptable.

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