Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
Kingdom Animalia, phylum Chordata, class Aves, order Strigiformes, family Strigidae
The breeding habitat of the Great Horned Owl extends almost throughout both North America and South America. Within their habitat they can take up residence in trees that include deciduous, coniferous, and mixed forests, tropical rainforests, pampas, prairie, mountainous areas, deserts, subarctic tundra, rocky coasts, mangrove swamps, and some urban areas.
Individuals range in length from 46 to 68 cm (18 to 27 inches) and have a wingspan of 101 to 153 cm (40 to 60.5 inches). Adults have large ear tufts, a reddish, brown or gray face and a white patch on the throat. The iris is yellow, except in the race B. v. nacurutu where it is amber. The ear tufts are not actually ears, but simply tufts of feathers. The legs and feet are covered in feathers up to the talons. Owls also have spectacular binocular vision needed to pinpoint prey and see in low light. Owls cannot move their eyes like we can. They are locked in a special circular bone. Therefore, their neck must be able to turn a full 270 degrees in order to see in other directions without moving its entire body. Owls have stereo hearing that allows them to find the exact location of their prey. These birds also have 500 pounds per square inch of crushing power in their talons. A normal man has about 60 pounds per square inch in his hands.
The birds hunt at night by waiting on a high perch and swooping down on prey. Prey is quite variable, but is predominantly small to medium-sized mammals such as rats, squirrels, mice, moles, voles, marmots, skunks, shrews, bats, weasels, gerbils and even porcupines. Birds comprise the other large portion of Great Horned Owl prey, with birds ranging in size from kinglets to Great Blue Herons being taken. Locally, waterbirds, especially coots and ducks, can be important prey; raptors up to the size of Snowy Owls are sometimes taken.
They have excellent hearing and exceptional vision in low light. Their hearing has better depth perception than human hearing and better perception of sound elevation (up-down direction). The latter is possible because owl ears are not placed in the same position on either side of their head: the right ear is typically set higher in the skull and at a slightly different angle. By tilting or turning its head until the sound is the same in each ear, an owl can pinpoint both the horizontal and vertical direction of a sound. The eyes of Great Horned
Their call is a low-pitched but loud “ho-ho-hoo hoo hoo.” Sometimes it is only four syllables instead of five. The male owl’s call is often used in Hollywood movies, no matter what kind of owl is being depicted on screen.