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Great Horned Owl

From Opus

Photo © by geomorphHeber Valley, Utah, USA, 16 October 2003
Photo © by geomorph
Heber Valley, Utah, USA, 16 October 2003
Bubo virginianus

Includes Magellanic Horned Owl

Contents

[edit] Identification

46-63 cm (18.1-24.8 in)
Ws. over 4 ft
The quintessential owl

  • Two tufts of feathers on either side of head
  • Cat-like head shape
  • Mostly brownish with patterning
    • Northern birds are very pale
    • Birds in Pacific Northwest are almost black
  • Rust orange face
  • White throat
  • Buff below
  • Pale, lightly feathered feet
  • Gleaming golden eyes (amber in subspecies B.v. nacurutu).
  • Powerful talons

[edit] Distribution

FemalePhoto © by DJ ODonnellLoveland, Colorado, 7 May 2019
Female
Photo © by DJ ODonnell
Loveland, Colorado, 7 May 2019

A very widely distributed bird throughout the Americas. Great Horns are found from Alaska to Chile and Argentina, mainly in forested areas; they also live in desert regions, where they nest in cacti. Published range maps do not include the Amazon Basin in South America; however, at least one Birdforum member has found a bird in an area north of the Amazon River in Brazil.

These birds are largely sedentary, though northern birds may irrupt, and there may be seasonal movement within territories.

[edit] Taxonomy

Magellanic Horned OwlPhoto © by Arthur Grosset Tierra del Fuego, Chile, 12 December 2005
Magellanic Horned Owl
Photo © by Arthur Grosset
Tierra del Fuego, Chile, 12 December 2005

[edit] Subspecies

Thirteen subspecies are recognized[1] with some authors recognizing even more:

The last unit is sometimes considered a full species Magellanic Horned Owl Bubo magellanicus which shows narrow barring on the underparts. It occurs in three color morphs, pale, dark, with some intermediate birds, and their main differences from regular Great Horned Owl are smaller size and voice.

[edit] Habitat

Varied habitats in its breeding range, from forest to city to open desert. Forest habitats, range from scrub through open woods to dense forests.

[edit] Behaviour

BranchlingPhoto © by bobsofpaLargo, Florida, USA,  1 March 2016
Branchling
Photo © by bobsofpa
Largo, Florida, USA, 1 March 2016

A fierce predator, known as the "Winged Tiger" or "Flying Tiger".

[edit] Diet

Will hunt small rodents, rabbits and hares, snakes, other birds (particularly waterfowl), and many other small animals. They have been known to pluck hawks and falcons from their nightly roosts, and they are some of the only animals which can hunt porcupines and skunks.

Great Horns are largely nocturnal, but will hunt in daylight if necessary. They are mainly perch hunters, sitting atop a favored vantage point (often at the edge of the forest) and scanning for prey.

[edit] Breeding

Normally a stick nest in a tree built by some other species (like all owls they don't build their own nests). The young are cared for by both adults.

[edit] Vocalisation

Most subspecies give a loud, booming hoot; hoo hu-hoo, hoo hoo.

The Magellan form has a three syllable call "hoo - hoo - hrrrrrrrrrrr", the last part downslurred, purring, and difficult to hear from a distance as it is much less strong.

[edit] References

  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Alvaro Jaramillo. 2003. Birds of Chile. Princeton Field Guides. ISBN 0-691-11740-3
  3. BirdForum Member observations
  4. Artuso, C., C. S. Houston, D. G. Smith, and C. Rohner (2020). Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.grhowl.01
  5. Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2019. Great_Horned_Owl in: All About Birds. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/ Accessed on 23May 2020.

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