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Great Horned Owl

Bubo virginianus ORDER: STRIGIFORMES FAMILY: STRIGIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

With its long, earlike tufts, intimidating yellow-eyed stare, and deep hooting voice, the Great Horned Owl is the quintessential owl of storybooks. This powerful predator can take down birds and mammals even larger than itself, but it also dines on daintier fare such as tiny scorpions, mice, and frogs. It’s one of the most common owls in North America, equally at home in deserts, wetlands, forests, grasslands, backyards, cities, and almost any other semi-open habitat between the Arctic and the tropics.

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Songs

Calls

Great Horned Owls advertise their territories with deep, soft hoots with a stuttering rhythm: hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo. The male and female of a breeding pair may perform a duet of alternating calls, with the female’s voice recognizably higher in pitch than the male’s. Young owls give piercing screams when begging for food, while adults may scream to defend the nest. Adults make an array of other sounds, including whistles, barks, shrieks, hisses, coos, and wavering cries.

Other Sounds

Great Horned Owls snap their bills in response to stressful conditions or disturbance, particularly when potential predators (such as humans) approach their young.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos