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Facts about the Owl-Knowing Great Horned Owl

Winter is a great time to search for and observe the largest owl that resides in Illinois – the Great Horned Owl (Bubo viginiaus). These fierce, nocturnal predators are permanent residents of Illinois and are the most common owl in North America.

Great Horned Owl | Photo Courtesy of
Great Horned Owl | Photo Courtesy of

What Makes the Great Horned Owl So Hoot-iful?

Adult Great Horned Owls are 18 to 25 inches tall. While females are typically larger than male Great Horned Owls, males have a deeper voice. Their large yellow eyes help them see and hunt at night with excellent night vision. Great Horned Owls are perfectly camouflaged with brown body feathers, white throat and chest feathers, and feathered feet. Their soft feathers help insulate them for cold weather and allow them to quietly fly and hunt.

Their menacing “horns” are actually perfectly placed tufts of feathers. Pretty cute, right?

In owl seriousness…Great Horned Owls are strong predators that use their large, hooked talons to quickly grab their prey on the fly. Their diet ranges from insects, birds, squirrels, and skunks. They can also take on larger prey, including other large raptors.

Owl You Need is Love

Great Horned Owls start calling in early winter to find a mate. Their call is easily recognizable and sounds like “hoo, hoo-oo, hoo, hoo”. They typically pair off and start nesting by February. Great Horned Owls don’t make their own nests, they hijack nests left by other animals. They lay an average of 2 to 3 white eggs that will hatch 30-37 days after being laid.

Great Horned Owls are solitary animals, except for during mating season. They can be found living in woodlands and thickets. Great Horned Owls are nocturnal, which means they are mostly active at night. During the day, you may be able to find them safely perching in tall trees.

Great Horned Owl | Photo Courtesy of
Great Horned Owl | Photo Courtesy of

Fast Facts

Great Horned Owls have a wingspan of 3 to 4 feet wide.

It requires a force of 28 pounds to un-clench their strong talons.

The oldest Great Horned Owl recorded was 28 years old (Ohio).

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