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Great Horned Owl

Scientific Name:

Bubo virginianus




Forests, woodlands, and agricultural areas


All of North America and parts of Central and South America


Least Concern (IUCN Red List)

This species is


to the Truckee Meadows.


Great horned owls have large, stout bodies with broad, disc-like heads, and huge yellow eyes. Their most recognizable feature are the prominent tufts of feathers on their ears. The color of their feathers varies widely from grey to cinnamon. Great horned owls have short, wide wings that allow them to maneuver easily through forests. Great horned owls make deep, soft hoots in a stuttering rhythm. As nocturnal animals, great horned owls are best seen around dusk.

Fast Facts:

  • Great horned owls are excellent predators capable of taking down prey much larger than themselves. These birds will use their talons to sever the spines of their prey. So strong is the grip of a great horned owl that it takes 28 pounds of force to open their talons when closed.

  • Like all owls, great horned owls are unable to move their eyes in their sockets. Instead, they compensate for this by being able to rotate their heads more than 180 degrees to look in any direction.

  • Great horned owls' disc-shaped face feathers help them funnel sound toward their powerful ears in order to hear prey from afar. Along with their great hearing, these owls have soft feathers that allow them to fly almost silently through the night. Great horned owls are exceptional hunters thanks to their incredible vision, hearing, strength, and silence while moving.

  • In the Paiute language, the word for owl is Moohoo’o.



Haley McGuire (research & content)

Ernest Ross (photo)

Lurana Cancilla (photo)

Alex Shahbazi (edits & page design)

Last Updated:

March 27, 2024 at 1:48:22 AM

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