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World Owl Trust - leading the World in Owl Conservation
Friday 19th December, 2014

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Great Horned Owl
Bubo virginianus
Great Horned Owl - Bubo virginianus virginianus    Great Horned Owl - Bubo virginianus virginianus
Alaskan Great Horned Owl - Bubo virginianus virginianus    Alaskan Great Horned Owl - Bubo virginianus virginianus
Alaskan Great Horned Owl - Bubo virginianus virginianus
Great Horned Owl - Bubo virginianus virginianus
As of February 2005.
Description Very large eared owl, largest species in the New World. Highly variable throughout its range, from large pale birds in Northern Canada to small dark races in humid southern parts. Generally mottled grey (gray) or brown upper-parts, with white to rufous under-parts and facial disk. Under-parts streaks on chest with heavy barring below. Yellow eyes with prominent ear tufts.
Size 51-60cm, 680-2500g
Range From Alaska down through Canada, USA to Central America, and South America East of the Andes to Argentina except in Amazon.
Habitat Wide range of habitats from deserts to parks, normally requires at least scattered trees. Avoids tropical forest.
Food Very diverse range of foods from insects, frogs and reptiles to mammals the size of hares and birds as big as geese.
Breeding December to July. Nests often in the old nest of other birds such as corvids or diurnal raptors, also in large tree hollows, cave entrances, cliff ledge or depression on ground. 1-3 eggs are incubated for about 30 days. Young leave nest by 7 weeks and can fly by 3 weeks later, however they do not become independent until about 5 months old.
Call Deep resonant “hu-huhoooo, hooh hooh”.
Status Not globally threatened, although normally found at relatively low densities. Persecution, habitat loss, and pesticides may pose threats in some areas. In some areas range and numbers are increasing as areas are being opened up by logging, it is also fairly adaptable.
Comments One of the most rapacious owl species. In the breeding season, it will not hesitate in attacking predators (including humans) which stray to close to the nest site. It is reputed to be the only owl recorded as killing a human!
Races Numerous races have been described by different authors, many of which just represent individual variation.
B.v.virginianus Minnesota east to Nova Scotia, and south to E Kansas, E Texas and Florida
B.v.mesembrinus Costa Rica (may be included in nominate race)
B.v.saturatus Coast of SE Alaska to N California
B.v.subarticus (May be included in B.v.wapacuthu and includes the race B.v.occidentalis)
B.v.pacificus SW USA east to Nevada, south to N Baja, California
B.v.pallescens SE California east to W Kansas and south to Mexico
B.v.elachistus S Baja, California
B.v.mayensis Yucatan Peninsula
B.v.nigrescens Ecuador and Columbia
B.v.nacurutu South America east of Andes


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The World Owl Trust is a member of BIAZA
The World Owl Trust is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA). The Trust relies on a dedicated membership, visitors, donations and legacies.
The World Owl Trust is a member of EAZA

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