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Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)

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Paul Bannick - Owls and Woodpeckers

Photographer and naturalist Paul Bannick, whose photos appear frequently on this website, has spent a lot of time observing woodpeckers and owls, including this Great Horned Owl. Paul notes: “Woodpeckers are called ‘keystone’ species…a species which alters its habitat to the benefit of other... read more »

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Paul Bannick - Owls and Woodpeckers

Photographer and naturalist Paul Bannick, whose photos appear frequently on this website, has spent a lot of time observing woodpeckers and owls, including this Great Horned Owl. Paul notes: "Woodpeckers are called 'keystone' species...a species which alters its habitat to the benefit of other... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching, photography

Raptor Breeding

It's April, but Great Horned Owls have been busy at their nests for two months. Golden Eagles are on their nests as early as the beginning of March. And Red-tailed Hawks (like this one) begin early, too. Why do these birds of prey nest so early? It takes a long time to raise a baby hawk or owl to... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

How Nestlings Leave the Nest

Young birds leave their nests in different ways. Some shuffle tentatively along the nearest branch and practice flapping their wings, while others take the "big leap." Which path they take depends upon their species and the location of the nest. Young Great Horned Owls clamber out of the nest to... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Great Horned Owl Duet

The 22-inch Great Horned Owl has two tufts of feathers that stick up from the top of its head. This owl is difficult to see, but it's often heard during dark winter evenings and pre-dawn mornings. A pair of owls may call back and forth or overlap their hoots. The male's call is slightly lower in... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Great Horned Owl - Hungry Young

Great Horned Owls are found in more varied habitats than any other owl in North America. These owls often nest in trees, but may also nest on cliffs in arid areas far from trees. They nest early in the year, even in the dead of winter. The young hatch a month later, vocalizing inside the egg a... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Great Horned Owls Nest

High in a leafless cottonwood, a female Great Horned Owl incubates two eggs. As light snow falls on her back, her mate roosts nearby. Since December, this pair has been hooting back and forth regularly at night. Great Horned Owls nest in winter, because the owlets, which hatch after a month of... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, nesting

The Great Horned Owl Nest

When Great Horned Owl eggs hatch, the downy owlets are the size of newborn chickens. Their mother broods them day and night. A few weeks later, the owlets can be left alone while both adults resume hunting at twilight. Great Horned Owl young remain in the nest for about six weeks, then climb out... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Great Horned Owl III

This Great Horned Owlet - about 2-1/2 months old and already as big as its parents - is quite well feathered, although its underparts remain downy. Its wing and tail feathers are developing nicely, and it has begun to make short flights. By mid-May, the owlet still relies almost entirely on its... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Great Horned Owl Family in Summer

In late July, the Great Horned Owl chicks that we have been following are four and a half months old, and must fend for themselves much of the time. The young birds continue to learn valuable lessons by watching the adults hunt. Their first hunting forays were clumsy. But by late July, they've... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Great Horned Owl Family V

In late September, young Great Horned Owls, now called "juveniles," still roost close together. By mid-October, the juveniles will scatter - or be driven away by the adults - to set up their own territories within a few dozen miles. By age two, they will seek their own mates. Learn about Great... read more »

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Great Horned Owl Menu

Great Horned Owls stalk their prey from perches, while gliding on silent wings, even while walking on the ground. Their prey ranges in size from crickets to turkeys. They take skunks, marmots, muskrats, and house cats. Mink and jack rabbits are on the menu, as is the occasional porcupine. Birds... read more »

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Great Horned Owl Family VI

Compared to many birds, Great Horned Owls remain with their parents a long time. They hatched in early March, from eggs laid in late January. By April, both parents were hunting through the night to feed their young. But for the last two weeks, the adults have not fed the young. The owlets have... read more »

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Great Horned Owls Calling

A fledgling Great Horned Owl calls to be fed. Judging from the young bird's persistence, the parents seem to be responding only with calls, not with food. These entreaties can go on for weeks. Both parents let the fledgling know that it's time for him to feed himself. They've been bringing voles... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

The Folklore of Owls

Thanks to Harry Potter, the owl is flying high. But throughout history, the owl has received mixed reviews. The Greeks believed an owl flying over a battlefield foretold victory, while in other cultures, owls were considered omens of death, prophets of doom. Listen to the story again, and you'll... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  myth

Bird Tracks in the Snow

Look for the stories birds tell with their tracks in the snow. A crow swaggers, leaving right-and-left steps much as a walking human would. Juncos under a birdfeeder leave a hopping pattern of tiny footprints in side-by-side pairs. Look for beak marks, where a bird picked up a choice morsel or... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching

Voices and Vocabularies - Great Horned Owls

Great Horned Owls have a lot to say! When a pair of Great Horned Owls calls in a duet, the female usually hoots first, and the male replies at a lower pitch. Great Horned Owls may also pierce the darkness with an eerie shriek, which may signal a hungry owlet begging for food or a female defending... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  sound

Emily Hears Great Horned Owls Call

I’m Emily, a fourth-grader at School in the Woods in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I love the Great Horned Owl’s call. Did you know that Great Horned Owls almost always hunt at night? First, they locate their prey from small movements on the ground. Next, they dive down at the perfect moment.... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  flight

Nurturing a Love of Birds

We're looking for teachers who use BirdNote in the classroom. Share your lesson plan or find one to use. Learn more. Then submit your own plan.In classrooms around the country, teachers who love birds and nature are introducing children to a source of life-long enjoyment. Emily Czerwonka, a... read more »

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Examining Owl Pellets

A roosting owl often leaves visual clues to its whereabouts — a scattering of furry, oval objects below its perch — in the form of pellets. Because owls such as this Great Horned Owl often swallow their prey whole, their digestive system has to deal with bones, fur, and feathers. The owl’s... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology

City Owls

Some owls, like Barred Owls and Great Horned Owls, live in the city. As hunters, they find a lot to eat in the city — like rats or squirrels! Both favor urban parks, cemeteries, and botanical gardens — places with big trees — and both roost during the day. The Great Horned Owl, like this one,... read more »

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