Bubo Virginianus – Great Horned Owl

Bubo Virginianus - Great Horned Owl

Bubo virginianus, the great horned owl is a big owl native to the Americas. It is the most extensively distributed true owl in the Americas and is highly adaptable. Aside from rabbits and hares, it eats rodents, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. The great horned owl is often compared to the Eurasian eagle-owl (Bubo bubo), a closely related species that fill the same ecological niche in Eurasia, and the red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), a diurnal ecological equivalent. This owl is one of North America’s earliest nesters, frequently weeks or months before other raptors in the family of Strigidae.

Quick Overview: Bubo Virginianus – Great Horned Owl
Body size: Around18-25 in (46-64 cm) and a weight of 1360 g (48 oz)
Main colors: White, Brown, Black, Yellow
Range: Throughout United States
Migratory Bird: No
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: All Year (January – December)
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Great horned owl Description

Great horned owls, like other owls, have rounded faces and forward-facing eyes for binocular vision. Their heads have horn-like feather tufts. This helps with camouflage. Their throats are marked by a white spot. Their underbelly is white with brown and black bars. They have a white or tan bill. Their back is a darker shade of black and brown. Their eyes are various shades of yellow.

Bubo Virginianus - Great Horned Owl
Bubo Virginianus – Great Horned Owl. Photo by: USFWS Mountain-Prairie


These owls have a length of 18-25 in (46-64 cm) and a weight of 1360 g (48 oz). Their wings could range from 38-60 in (91-152 cm).


They are carnivores that feed on terrestrial vertebrates. Their diet varies depending on prey availability. These predators eat lagomorphs and mice. Smaller great horned owls rely on smaller prey such as immature rabbits, rodents, and insects in the Southwest. In fields and deserts, they probably eat rodents and insects.


Great horned owls are adaptable to many situations. They live at elevations ranging from sea level to 3352.8 meters. Great horned owls prefer woodlands and open fields. Arid and semi-arid grasslands; mangrove wetlands; and rural and urban human settlements.


Great horned owls are alone unless while breeding. In general, they do not migrate. Great horned owls cry to establish territory boundaries. Territorial disputes may be deadly. Territorial floaters are Great Horned Owls. They do not have a fixed area and may visit other great horned owls. Social conduct may inhibit breeding. It may help those who do breed. Delaying reproduction also reduces the chances of a successful clutch in juvenile owls.

Bubo virginianus Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Strigiformes
  • Family: Strigidae
  • Genus: Bubo
  • Species: Bubo virginianus

Best time of the year to see

In the United States, the best time of year to see these birds is all year round, regardless of the season. This refers to any month of the year between January and December

Distribution of the Great horned owl in the USA

Great horned owls are native to North America and Central and South America. Their latitude range is 68 degrees north (around Alaska’s northern tip) to 54 degrees south (near the southern tip of Brazil).

The Great horned owl can be found in the following states in the United States – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Bubo Virginianus – Great Horned Owl

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