Great Horned Owl, perched on a branch
Great Horned Owl

Living up to its name, the Great Horned Owl is quite imposing in size. This bird can measure up to 60 centimeters in height ranking him Canada’s tallest owl. When flying, its wingspan can reach up to 150 centimeters in length.

Like most owl species, its eyes are yellow and its feet are covered in feathers; assuring a smooth and very quiet flight. Placed on top of its head, egrets give the illusion the Great Horned Owl has external ears. However, egrets are simply decorative feathers and aren’t actual ear lobes.

Equipped with very powerful claws, this bird can easily capture a variety of preys such as other predatory birds (e.g. the Barred Owl), herons, geese and ducks. It also indulges in small mammals such as the hare, rats, mice, and other types of animals such as reptiles, frogs, insects; even porcupines! Besides eating a wide range of animals, this owl is able to adapt to many types of environments. Among others, it inhabits coniferous and deciduous (or leafy) forests, prairies, river valleys; even wooded urban parks.

Finally, the Great Horned Owl nests in the trees from which it can acquire an abandoned nest made by other predatory birds, an American Crow or even a squirrel. Unlike many owl species, this one typically mates in winter instead of spring. During this season, the female lays 2 to 3 eggs which she broods for approximately 30 days.

Fun facts

  • The Province of Alberta adopted the great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) as its official bird on May 3, 1977, following a province-wide children’s vote. The great horned owl lives in Alberta year round and was selected to symbolize the growing concern over threatened wildlife, not only in Alberta, but also throughout the world.
  • Discover the Night Life of Owls guided outings are offered each year in March at Kouchibouguac National Park and will make you dive into the incredible world of owls. Everyone’s invited and will learn tons of fascinating facts about the Great Horned Owl, the Barred Owl and the Saw-whet Owl; even how to mimic their chants. To find out more, see Kouchibouguac's Special Events page.

More information on the Great Horned Owl