Best 15 Horned owl facts, habits, behavior, food

Horned owl

Horned owls are large, and thick feathered owls, and they have two prominent head-like structures known as “Tufts” on their heads. They have wide and round shaped wings. When they fly the small beak and the round face creates a blunt headed illusion.

Size and color:

The size of the great horned owl is somewhere between the size of a crow and a goose having a wingspan of thirty-five to fifty-one inches. The color of these owls is obvious and they can be easily recognized by their ashy-grey color, with brown spots all over the body. The overall appearance may vary from one region to another. However, the overall color can vary from soot to pale.


Horned owls are nocturnal by nature, which explains they hunt during the night. That is why they are noticeable at tree branches, and limbs during dusk. The call of these owls is deep and consists of four-five muffled hoots.


Horned owls are usually located in the forests of young trees that are connected to open areas. Overall habitat of this marvellous owl includes forests, swamps, deserts, savannahs, marshy areas, tropical rainforests, orchards, and suburban parks too.

Color difference according to region:

Horned owls have developed color differences according to the region in which they thrive. In pacific areas, this owl appears to be sooty grey-brown. On the other hand owls situated in the Southwest have a paler color that is also on the grey side. Horned owls present in Canada probably are full white in color.

Horned owl

Among owls, apart from the barn horned owls are the second most popular owl species. Horned owls have ear tufts on their heads that appear like horns, and therefore they are named as horn owls. As they are widely spread and are famous owl species, therefore we have compiled this article “Horned owl” for you. 

Horned owl Appearance:

Horned owls are large-sized owls with thick plumage, and they have prominent ear tufts covered with feathers on their heads. Their heads and wings are round in shape, and they have large and broad wings. When they go for a hunt and take their traditional flight, their small beaks and circular shaped head creates an illusion of a bird with no head.    


Talking about the colour of their plumage, great horned like other owls have buffed and dark feathers with black or brown patterns present on their bodies. The face colour is distinguished from the rest of the body as it appears reddish-brown in the shade. Great horned owls also have an empty white patch on their throats. 

Horned owl behavior:

As most owls are nocturnal and so is the great horned owl. However, they also do hunt at dawn and dusk, and therefore you may find them resting in perches and tree branches at such times. Great horned owl calls include hoots which include four or five transitions. 

Horned Global presence:

Great horned owls are also widely distributed over the globe, and you can find them in dense forestlands, woodlands and open areas. Great horned owls inhabit a lot of diverse habitats that include forests, savanna, deserts, tundras and tropical and subtropical ranges. 

In different parts of the world, the great horned owl’s plumage colour also varies; in North-Western areas, they appear to be muddier and darker in colour whereas as we move to the northern sides, their plumage becomes lighter and grey. In Canada, people also acknowledge the presence of white great horned owls. 

Horned owl facts

  • Great horned owls are massive with the length of eighteen to twenty-five inches, and they also have a broader wingspan of thirty-five to thirty- six inches. 
  • Their chest is full and horizontal with mottled grey and brown colour.
  • The face has a darker boundary of black with light brown colour filling the centre of their faces. 
  • The nails and beaks of the great horned owls are black. 
  • They have ear tufts covered in thick feathers, present on their round face. 
  • Their eyes are prominent on their faces as they are bright yellow or golden.
  • Great horned owls are capable of twisting their heads to 180 degrees. 
  • Their tufts easily identify great horned owls. 
  • After eight weeks they are capable of flying and are fully covered in feathers. 

Horned owl food

The diet of the great horned owl varies as much as their habitat. Through the time great horned owls have inhabited several habitats of the world, and there is no fixed diet. These owls have excellent hunting and survival capabilities; therefore, in the night whatever they see moving or crawling, they never miss the opportunity. So their diet can vary from rodents, mammals, insects, reptiles, amphibians and some flying insects too. 

Horned owl female

Great horned owls are monogamous, and the females are dependent upon males for the mating and after incubation for the food. The male owls have to attract the females by his various hooting talents. 

The male approaches the female and tries to rub their beaks on her plumage, if the female does not show any rigorous signs then she is selected for mating. If not then the male has to search for another one. 

Males also attract great horned females by offering them their prey. Most of the couples breed every year; however, to resume breeding in the winters they have to strengthen up their bond again. 

Horned owl 12

Horned owl behavior

Great horned owls make their nests in thick, dense cavities, mainly forests, woodlands and abandoned buildings. They show their maximum activity at night, and they show some crepuscular behavior as well. In case of scarcity of food, they may have to hunt at unusual hours like in the day time. Great horned owls pair up with their mates for their entire life, and they protect their territories violently. The behavior becomes aggressive as breeding season approaches.

When they feel threatened, they usually show this by hissing or tapping their bills, screaming or yelling and at maximum they spread their wings to show the power. Sometimes during territory clashes, they may kill the owls of the same species. They also kill other birds like ravens, small birds, canaries etc. 

Horned owl breeding season

Great horned owls are the most common owl species in America with their horny ear tufts and a volumized appearance. It is that owl which we in owl wisdom cartoons and comics. 

Most of the breeds in late winters and the spring season but that is not very true for the great horned owl. Owls breed in winters and their breeding season is also known as “Hooting season of owls.” Top yourself up with a coat and a cap and be ready to see the coolest things in the winters.

Though owls are nocturnal, therefore they are rare to spot even though they are in abundance. However, during the breeding season, they are easy to spot; one can follow their hooting calls to locate them.

Males hoot a lot because as breeding season approaches, they begin to locate and confirm their territories. Once they have saved their territories from other competitors, then they start attracting a mate by the same calls.

Owls make calls in a specific pattern; two or three short calls follow the more extended call. After breeding comes to the process of nesting and incubating, as they breed in the winter season, protecting the eggs from the cold and snow is itself a challenge. 

Both of the parents have to keep the eggs warm; female owls take this responsibility and keep the eggs warm as they stay in nests for more extended periods. Males endure the hunting responsibility, and the female and the young ones make begging calls for food.

However, early hatching has a benefit too, as the weather becomes mild and moderate the owlets can quickly learn the flying and hunting skills.

Horned owl dream meaning

Symbolic meaning:

Great horned owls are usually associated with evil and wicked meanings, mainly due to their nocturnal behaviour and honey appearance. However, there are several other meanings that we do not know about. In several mythologies, great horned owls are famous for their wisdom and endurance. In Indian culture, great horned owls are also associated with their intimate spirituality because they think that great horned owls have a deep connection with their love life.

Horned owl In your dream:

If you see a great horned owl in your dream, it may mean that you need to take a break from your life and need to focus on your life and your purpose. As great horned owls have fantastic eyesight and the sense of hearing due to which they can hunt at night with all ease and comfort. Therefore, it also means that you are someone who has a great observation.

Horned owl eyes

Great horned owl eyes have a prominent bright yellow or golden colour. They have very dilated pupils as they are nocturnal. Great horned owl’s retinas contain a tremendous amount of rod cells which enable them to see clearly in the night. All owls have stationary eyes and so do the great horned owls. They cannot move their eyes, and therefore they have to move their heads clockwise or anti-clockwise.

Horned owl habitat

Their habitat varies from region to region as they have amazing surviving and adapting capabilities. Great horned owls are mainly found in forests, semi forests, deserts, tropical areas except for the Caribbean islands. As they have fantastic surviving and adapting capabilities, they have learned how to inhabit different parts of the world. 

Great horned owl kill humans

All owls and the birds of prey have this instinct of attacking whenever they feel threatened and if they feel their owlets are in trouble. The most dangerous part is their nails, if they attack you, then they can pierce your skin, and the result will be deep wounds. If you don’t disturb them, they will not attack you.  Therefore, if you see any warning signs from a great horned owl, for example, hissing and opening up their wings, then ensure your space between owls.

Horned owl lifespan

In wild great horned owls have the threat of predators and climate; therefore they do not live long in the wild, at most they can live for twenty-eight years. However, they have prolonged life spans in captivation. A female owl in the zoo of San Francisco lived for thirty years. However, most of the great horned owls even in captivation live for twenty years.

Horned owl 13

Are great horned owls aggressive? 

Great horned owls are particularly famous for their aggressive behaviors. It is the only reason why they attack the prey, which is more significant than them. The victim they are fond of attacking includes cats, porcupines, skunks etc. If they feel that their house or their owlets are in the threat, they do not hesitate to attack large dogs, cats and even humans. 

Do great horned owls stay in one area? 

As most of the owls are monogamous, therefore there are more probabilities that they won’t leave their place once they have found their mates. However, if the area lacks the amount of prey, then the owls may temporarily leave the field for food. 

You May Also Like

About the Author: Zoological world

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: