Amazing Great Horned Owls
Great Horned Owls are large, fierce birds of prey with large yellow eyes and sharp, curved talons. Their mottled grey-brown plumage provides excellent camouflage against tree bark. There are about ten subspecies of Great Horned Owl, which differ in colour; northern birds tend to have lighter-coloured plumage, but all have characteristic tufts of feathers that look like horns.
At sunrise and sunset, Great Horned Owls perch in trees and listen for prey. The classic face ‘mask’ of these owls amplifies the sounds of small animals. They locate prey with their precise hearing and excellent night vision, then glide down in complete silence to grab prey with their talons. They are excellent hunters of small to medium animals, including skunks, scorpions, other birds, and even porcupines. They tear very large prey into smaller pieces using their talons and curved beaks.
Female Great Horned Owls are larger than the males. Adults live a solitary life except when rearing a brood. Breeding pairs begin courtship in February and call to one another with a deep ‘whooo, whooo’ sound. They nest in hollow trees or abandoned nests of other birds, laying 2–6 eggs. Both parents help raise the hatchlings, which remain in the nest for 9–10 weeks until they can fly. Young Great Horned Owls stay in the family group with their parents until they can live alone.