The Great Horned Owl


great horned owl

The Great Horned Owl know by its long ‘ears’ which are actually only feather tufts.

One Man’s Owl by Heinrich Bernd chronicles the experiences had by the author and a Great Horned Owl named Bubo. Bernd discovered the young owl when he spotted its tiny talons sticking up through the snow having fallen from a tree. Too injured to set free, Bernd and Bubo spend 3 summers together in one of western Maine’s forests and Bubo learned to become his own hunter.


A number of assaults had taken place in the City of Bangor, Maine in mid-March of 2009.The injuries, reportedly stemming from incidents at the Rolland F. Perry City Forest, were minor wounds. The perpetrator: Great Horned Owl protecting their nests in the area. . The victims: visitors to the Park. Most of the attacks took place at dusk or later in the evening. “If you hear a limb crack behind you, you may want to put your arms up” warned Brian Dugas, a city forester.  The owls had also targeted dogs that walked alongside their owners. Folks were advised to ‘wear a hat” and “carry an umbrella”.

Credit:. (Bangor Daily News/Bridget Brown)

Photo Credit: (Bangor Daily News/Bridget Brown)

“I didn’t hear a thing and just caught a glimpse of a shadow after I’d been hit,” Allen said. “I didn’t sit around to see if anything was sitting up in the trees. I screamed, waved my poles and left. With my heart in my throat.”

Jim Allen of Bangor

The assaults took place between the third week of February into early April and that is when the raptors would have committed to a nest and would be tending their young. They are strong and fiercely protective of both their mates and young. Adult birds may become quite belligerent. They are the largest owl living in Maine.

Great Horned Owls often get killed or injured when feeding on road-kill animals or attacking prey. Almost 50% of young owls leaving their nests die within a year from starvation or collisions.

Great Horned Owls are nocturnal so they may be difficult to spot. You can hear their cries just before dawn or shortly after sunset. Often, Great Horned owls and their nests are identified by their pellets. Since they eat their prey whole and regurgitate pellets that are quite recognizable.


  • Owls are considered symbols of wisdom in some cultures but in others, they are feared as a sign of impending death or doom.
  • It looks like owls can turn their heads all the way around and even upside down.  This is because they have 14 neck vertebrates that allow them to move their head at 270 degrees, left of right.
  • Great horned owls are monogamous and take life-long mates. The Great Horned owls don’t build a nest together but will usurp the residents of other nests such as crows and eagles or will take over an abandoned nest.
  • The Great Horned owl is the only animal that eats skunks…and porcupines (at least they try).
  • They also prey on raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, domesticated birds, falcons and other owls. An occasional wild turkey is a choice meal. Some unlucky cats and dogs have also been known as “easy prey”. If you live in an area that a Great Horned owl nests, it is best to have covered areas where your chickens or pets can hide. They also eat they eat reptiles, amphibians, fish and insects but too a much lesser degree.
  • When it comes to “hunting”, the Great Horned Owl prefers a “sit and wait approach”. They watch from their perch then swoop down and catch their prey with their strong talons. These owls, as most owls, have keen hearing and vision particularly in the hours before dusk and early dawn. They can hear a mouse rustle through the grass from 900 feet away.


The Great White Owl’s classic sound can be heard from miles away. They vary with the owl’s mood and temperament. If the Great White is calling for its mate, it makes a “Who hoo” sound. If aggravated, the owl “clacks” its beak. Young owls “shriek” for attention.


  • The scientific name is Bubo Virginianus.
  • The height of the Great Horned Owl is between 1.5 and 2 feet.
  • Their wing span is 4 to 5 feet.
  • The male weighs about 3 pounds; the female about 4 pounds.
  • The Great Horned Owl has very big eyes. If their eyes were compared to those like a person, their eyes would be the size of oranges.
  • They are large with yellow eyes, long tufts of hair, a white throat and dark barring on their body. Their orange facial disk is outlined in black.