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The Great Horned Owl: A Magnificent Avian Apex Predator

The natural world has always been of terrific interest to me, especially when it comes to animals like the great horned owl.

The great horned owl is nearly unparalleled as an avian apex predator, and this article will break down why they're so amazing.

The great horned owl is nearly unparalleled as an avian apex predator, and this article will break down why they're so amazing.

Great Horned Owls Live All Across the Americas

The great horned owls (Bubo virginianus) are ultimate Americans. From halfway to the northernmost portions of Alaska and Canada, all the way down to the south Amazon basin, you'll find the great horned owls of the Americas. These magnificent predators live as long as 28 years.

The birds of this species demand and are deserving of respect. If you don't think so, try getting at one of the owl's eggs.

First and foremost, beware of their talons, as they are the most dangerous thing—that and the fact you won't be looking for one when one is looking to injure you. These owls' talons are said to exert 500 pounds per square inch of pressure against your skin. Losing an eye is certainly within the realm of possibilities. The strength of the great horned owl's talons is comparable to that of a golden eagle, or to that of a German shepherd's bite.

This article will cover just about everything you need to know about great horned owls, including the legality of owning or hunting them, what they look like, what they eat, and how they live.

The great horned owl ready to strike.

The great horned owl ready to strike.

Beware: Great Horned Owls Will Attack You

These raptors are predators. Ever hear of a predator that doesn't protect its young, its territory, or itself? No, you have not. Great horned owls can and do attack humans when they feel threatened—and they should! Humans tend not to respect each other much, and much less so other earthlings.

Disrespect them at your own peril, however. They are the only known bird of prey to have ever killed a human being. Yes, the silly dead human tried to get some owl eggs—bad decision, that.

Stay Away From Their Nests

Here's a helpful hint: The great horned owl is liable to see your behavior as disrespectful or threatening even when it isn't. The picture below is of a man who was collecting rabbits from his snares in the woods. Perhaps the owl recognized the human as a threat to his diet? Owls aren't stupid, you know.

All predators are territorial, and the great horned owl is no different. These owls are known to occasionally dive-bomb humans. If you know good and well you are in an area where owls are attacking, then you should carry an umbrella. When it is raining owl talons, an umbrella, thin and simple as one is, can provide some deterrence.

While collecting rabbits from his snares in the woods, this man was attacked by a great horned owl.

While collecting rabbits from his snares in the woods, this man was attacked by a great horned owl.

It Is Very Illegal to Harm or Possess a Great Horned Owl Without a License to Do So

It is illegal for you, for me, and for the largest part of the population to possess a great horned owl, or any part of one. Obviously, it is also illegal to kill one, as they are federally protected. We're talking felony charges here. You do not want a felony record.

You have every right, however, to protect yourself from a great horned owl. You just don't have the right to kill one outside the realm of an incident where one is actually attacking you or someone with you. While owl attacks do happen, it's probably not a thing you should worry your little head over.

Me? Heck, I'm forever pleased when I even get to see any owl. A super predator like a great horned owl isn't the type of creature that poses for cameras. Even when I've been out and listening to owls hootie hoodie hoo-ing, I typically don't see them, as it is typically very dark outside at those times. These are nocturnal predators.

A great horned owl with a meal.

A great horned owl with a meal.

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What Do Great Horned Owls Eat?

So what do these semi-mythical and powerful raptors eat? Meat, of course. They eat lots of meat. Fresh, wiggling meat is how the great horned owls like it. Of course, a diverse diet is advantageous for most any animal's survival, and the great horned owls are no different. This diversity also goes a long way towards explaining the owl's very large range of dominion from the skies.

A Diverse Diet of Mammals, Birds, and Insects

Great horned owls have the most diverse diet of all North American raptors. Their prey range in size from tiny rodents and scorpions to hares, skunks, geese, and raptors. They eat mostly mammals and birds—especially rabbits, hares, mice, and American coots. But they also eat also many other species, including voles, moles, shrews, rats, gophers, chipmunks, squirrels, woodchucks, marmots, prairie dogs, bats, skunks, house cats, porcupines, ducks, loons, mergansers, grebes, rails, owls, hawks, crows, ravens, doves, and starlings. They supplement their diet with reptiles, insects, fish, invertebrates, and sometimes carrion.

These birds are all-out predatory. They even eat other owls. The list above of prey is merely a grouping of common examples. Great horned owls prey on 500 known species of creatures, even going so far as to attack and eat bald eagle chicks, assuming the parent birds are not in the nest. This avian apex predator is speculated by some to be the single most successful predator on the planet Earth.

Great Horned Owls Also Hunt During the Day

Although they are usually nocturnal hunters, Great Horned Owls sometimes hunt in broad daylight. After spotting their prey from a perch, they pursue it on the wing over woodland edges, meadows, wetlands, open water, or other habitats. They may also walk along the ground to stalk small prey around bushes or other obstacles.

The Lives of Great Horned Owls

Great horned owls lay eggs weeks in advance of other species of raptors. This gives the owl's chicks a competitive advantage over, say, those of the red-tailed hawk. (The red-tailed hawk, by the way, is a definite competitor to the great horned owls, for just about everything. The two completely distinct species of raptors share the same ecological niche.)

A Courting Process of Posturing, Hooting, and Gift-Giving

These owls spend some time choosing their mates. They start courting in October, make decisions by December, and then are mated for life. These are totally monogamous birds of prey. Besides physical posturing and loads of hooting, the males also do another traditional sort of thing during courtship—they treat the lady to a fine meal of fresh meat.

Their Nests Are Often Stolen From Other Birds

Great horned owl nests are as varied as the vast stretches of land they inhabit. The most consistent characteristic of great horned owl nests is that they're often stolen from other birds. Why build a nest when you can just take one? It's almost human, this raptor, in many of its admirable and less-than-admirable behaviors.

They Fiercely Protect and Amply Provide for Their Young

The laying of eggs is timed according to the region the particular owls inhabit, and the weather in said region. Once again, be advised that you are most likely going to be attacked by a large raptor with powerful talons if you disturb a nest. You may be attacked simply for being too close to it, whether you know about said nest or not.

The females stay with the nest unless something dramatic forces them out. The males act like consummate and loving mates during this time, often doing the hunting for both adults and even stockpiling food for the chicks when they hatch. A studying biologist observed one nest and found a full 18 pounds of meat stored and ready for the chicks.

Eggs are incubated, regardless of the temperature, by the female for 28–37 days before chicks hatch. It's often more than 10 weeks before the baby birds can fly competently.

A few great horned owl chicks peer out from their nest.

A few great horned owl chicks peer out from their nest.

How Big Are Great Horned Owls?

So how big are these great horned owls? The female is larger than the male, as a rule. Despite the size difference, the male has more developed vocal abilities and can hoot with a deeper, louder voice.

Females weigh around 4 pounds, while males weigh about 3 pounds. The females usually stand 2 feet tall and the males a foot and a half. Wingspans are truly impressive and stretch as far as 5 feet wide in females and 4 feet for the males.

When it comes to great horned owls, the female is generally larger than the male.

When it comes to great horned owls, the female is generally larger than the male.

What Are the Great Horned Owl's Enemies?

These birds are veritable avian apex predators, but they still have enemies. Very few, however, pose an actual threat to them.

While great horned owls are so bold as to attack and even eat the chicks of a bald eagle, it is a rare thing. Though in defending their nests bald eagles have been known to kill great horned owls, they do not, however, hunt them. Crows are known to gang up on the great horned owls and harass them for hours and hours at a time, but they can't kill one. Once every blue moon, a red-tailed hawk gets the jump on the great horned owl and kills one.

Though there is exactly one creature that literally hunts this apex predator. That fearsome and huge raptor is the golden eagle, the sworn enemy of great horned owls.

Golden eagles are the sworn enemies of great horned owls and their only true threat.

Golden eagles are the sworn enemies of great horned owls and their only true threat.

When Ears Are Not Ears

Owls in general are known for having outstanding ears and eyes, and this species is no exception. The eyes of the great horned owl are huge in comparison to the size of its face, and those "horns" are certainly the ears, right? Wrong. The "horns" are not ears, and they aren't horns either. They're actually just feathers, and that is all that they are.

Huge eyes and massive pupils allow the great horned owls to collect all available light while hunting at night. Though they cannot swivel their eyes in their heads as we can, they can rotate their heads as much as 270° in either direction. Who needs swiveling eyes when you can do that? These owls have less ability to differentiate colors than we do though. For colors are not what the owl seeks, but rather, movement.

Though the tufts of feathers on the top of a great horned owl's head might look like ears, they are nothing more than feathers.

Though the tufts of feathers on the top of a great horned owl's head might look like ears, they are nothing more than feathers.

The ear tufts, which are only feathers, serve the great horned owls as camouflage, and they shift in position to indicate the bird's moods. As shown in the illustration above, the actual ears of this bird are not easily visible to the untrained eye. Those ears, however—along with their eyes—are possibly the greatest surveillance weapons developed by natural selection on the planet Earth.

A beautiful great horned owl soaring through the air.

A beautiful great horned owl soaring through the air.

The Great Horned Owl in Flight

No species of owl is particularly fast as a flyer. Like other owls, this species is almost completely silent in flight. They glide more than they ever flap their wings. With near pinpoint accuracy with the dish face, huge eyes, and finely tuned ears, it is simply not fair for the great horned owl's prey.

You've been losing your cats, have you? You were sure it was coyotes killing them, huh? Think again, my friend. The great horned owl can kill and fly off with prey more than twice its own body weight. Even if a cat was too big for the owl to fly off with, the raptor can easily kill one and get a bellyful on the ground. Instances such as these—where the prey is too large to carry off and the bird must feed there on the ground—are some of the only instances when a great horned owl is ever in physical danger.

Great Horned Owls Are Common Throughout Human Mythology and Fiction

Great horned owls are frequent figures in pop culture, mythology, and folk tales.

In the Harry Potter stories, there is Errol, a messenger great horned owl who plays a role alongside a snow owl. There's little surprising about this, as the wizard Merlin was very fond of owls. His owl's name was Archimedes, and Archimedes was a rather important character to the tale of The Once and Future King.

In addition to pop culture, all owls, not just the great horned ones, are mythological birds. More often than not, owls are thought to be harbingers of doom. One can only imagine how early peoples would react to a nocturnal raptor that seemingly has devil's horns on its head, and the ability to rotate its head to alarming angles.

I hope to have spread some appreciation, if not love, here for the great horned owls. Thanks for reading, and happy hunting to you.

This is an amazing photo of a great horned owl in flight.

This is an amazing photo of a great horned owl in flight.

Sources and Further Reading

"Great Horned Owl." (n.d.). All About Birds – The Cornell Lab,

"Great Horned Owl." (n.d.). National Geographic,

"Great Horned Owl." (n.d.). National Audubon Society,

Lewis, Deane. (2020). "Great Horned Owl ~ Bubo virginianus." The Owl Pages,

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: I have a pair of nesting owls with two owlets in my and my neighbor's backyard. I watch them every evening with a scope. The juveniles are flying; they are so incredibly noisy. At what point do the kids leave home? At what age do they seek a mate?

Answer: Young Great Horned owls are not competent flyers until they are ten to twelve weeks old, but then after that, the time when they leave their parents is dependent upon how much food is available. They are typically gone from a nest before the Fall is over.

Question: Is it legal to own a Great Horned Owl?

Answer: You have to have a license to have one.

Question: Will a Great Horned Owl eventually seek new territory? I saw my first one late this evening coasting from pine tree to pine tree, robbing mockingbird nests. All this with a squadron of mockers dive bombing and screeching.

Answer: I think if the climate changes the Great Horned Owl could find some new territory. I don't think the other birds could ever chase the Great Horned Owl out of a place though.

Question: Can owls pass disease through their claws?

Answer: It is possible such could be the case as an owl's claws are often ripping into prey animals, and there is no certainty as to the health of the prey.

Question: If an owl is hopping around on the ground for quite a while. Is that a sign that it’s I’ll or injured?

Answer: Yes, I believe so. I also believe the bird is dangerous when injured, and shouldn't be bothered except by persons trained to do so. I got very close to a great horned owl once, late at night, and strangely enough - standing at a dirt crossroads. Got within ten feet of it, as it was just standing there. Still looked like an animal which could do me great harm, and I respectfully backed away, slowly.

Question: How close can someone typically get to a Horned Owl before they attack you?

Answer: I've been very very close to a Great Horned Owl before, and not been attacked. The thing about this is, the particular owl was not guarding a nest. It's important to remember here you're going to get attacked NOT for getting close to the owl, but for getting close to a Great Horned Owl's nest.

Question: Might an owl be responsible for the disappearance of a chihuahua from a fenced back yard in Phoenix? No blood, no fur, no trace. The dog just vanished at night.

Answer: Yes. This is absolutely a possibility for the disappearance. I'm sorry to hear it, by the way, as I recently had to bury one of my much loved dogs.

The Great Horned Owl can carry off animals which weigh a lot more than it does. If the dog was under ten pounds in weight, then it could absolutely have been grabbed from the sky, and carried off.

I should also mention here how coyotes can jump fences over ten feet high. While the owl is definitely a suspect, I would have to believe a coyote more likely to be the culprit.

© 2016 Wesman Todd Shaw


T on August 01, 2020:

Sorry to hear that. 60 is still young if your health is good. My mother whom I take care of will be 103 in January. Cardiologist said she has the heart of a healthy 60 year old. Except for weakening sight, hearing and arthritis she’s as normal as a 60 year old. Hardly any meds, nothing expensive. Get this, she was married to a chain smoker for 40 years, ate meat nearly every day of her life, still loves salt and sugar and in private is as negative a person you’ll ever meet but just as sweet as can be to your face! She was the youngest of 7 so all her siblings are passed away, 3 too early from ALS. I guess she is making up for the years they lost.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on August 01, 2020:

The girl is awfully cute. My uncle Jim died during the night. He probably did die of Covid19, but we don't know just yet. He also died because he wouldn't go to a hospital. We're 60 miles away, and didn't have much influence on the guy anyway.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on August 01, 2020:

Thanks T. You're a great resource for things like this.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on August 01, 2020:

@Sam - I've got some who have recently moved in in a thicket nearby. I hear a lot of the exact same thing. They're obviously talking, but just what about, I do not know.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on August 01, 2020:

Look Carol, I'm not a lawyer, but what I do know is if the owls have chicks and that guy gets close to them, he could get hurt badly.

Carol Spigelmyer on August 01, 2020:

Is my neighbor allowed to scare away the great horned owls who have been in my yard for 15 + years. They have chicken which are actually against ordinances but that is another story, but he scares away the owls every night , out of my yard.

Sam Kirsch on January 01, 2020:

, my question is I have great horned owl I seen him. And the other night he was above my window at 4 in the morning and I heard a deep hooting followed by a higher hooting... Do you think this was some kind of ritual it went on for quite a while??????

The Logician from then to now on on June 03, 2019:

The size difference known as sexual dimorphism is likely due to the need for males to be smaller because small live prey is more abundant than large prey, and the male does more hunting when the female is incubating. Additionally, females may be larger to support egg production and incubation. There is no way of actually knowing the reason other than it is dictated by their genetic makeup but this sounds logical. You can decide for yourself if the causation is due to natural selection or simply an intelligent designer or likely both!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on June 03, 2019:

Thanks very much, Ms. Rogers, I wish I could answer such questions as why the male is smaller than the female; but it is quite the mystery to me as well. The male has a larger voice box, and I suppose this means he can hoot louder than she can.

Linda Rogers from Minnesota on June 02, 2019:

This was so fascinating to read about these amazing owls. Funny how relaxing I find the owl sound but not so funny if I make him feel threatened. I was really intrigued that the male is smaller than the female. Does the smaller size help with manly duties like finding food? Really enjoyed this article!

The Logician from then to now on on May 16, 2019:

They can communicate, even with humans. I’ve seen it on eyeglass commercials!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on May 16, 2019:

Thanks Mike and T.

From my area of north Texas, what seems to be the case is they much prefer the areas with pine trees. Just 20 or so miles away there is a community with a lot of pines, and those owls can be heard on either side of you, just about anywhere you go there. You can tell they're having conversations. two hoots, three in reply from across the way. Who knows what it means.

Readmikenow on May 16, 2019:


Thanks for the information. I am going to HAVE to try it.

The Logician from then to now on on May 16, 2019:

Mike, You know if you play a recording of any owl (at dusk or right before dawn is best or a full moon so you have some light to spot them) they will come right to you from up to a mile (or more) away. I actually had a screech owl once try to land on my shoulder and once grabbed one right out of the air.

If you play a great horned owl however smaller owls in the area will disappear as great horned owls will eat them and they seem to know it.

Readmikenow on May 16, 2019:

Very good article.

The other day I was taking an early morning walk in the woods behind my house. I spotted a Great Horned Owl in a tree having a chipmunk for breakfast. I stopped and was going to get a picture of it, but the owl made a sound and took off with its half-eaten prey when it saw me. Magnificent creatures. Enjoyed reading your article.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on May 15, 2019:

Heather, I'd guess the owl was after something other than you, of course, and was following it, or seeing if it was what it thought it might be.

Heather Grissinger on May 15, 2019:

We have a pair of great horned owls that visit our neighborhood almost every night, in Tucson AZ. The other night one was on top of our backdoor neighbors house. My husband and I went out back to look at it. It looked back and then flew to the eve of our roof, 5 feet directly above my head! It leaned over and blinked at me twice and took off! I'm in shock and amazement! What would cause an owl in a neighborhood to do something like that? I don't think that's normal is it?

Justin matthews on March 11, 2019:

Im a falconer and ive had cosmo my greathorned owl for 17 years.hes a one person bird for sure.very afectionet to me.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 10, 2019:

Good question, Dave. I'm just not the guy who can answer that one. Sounds like a lawyer would have to be consulted.

Dave Echols on February 10, 2019:

Someone bought a deep empty lot across the street from me, the back of the lot has mature pine trees with what I believe are great horned owls nesting there. Is it legal for this guy to cut all the pine trees down in the back of his property since the owls are nesting there? Its in northern Pinellas county., Oldsmar.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on January 15, 2019:

Glad they missed, James!

JAMES FERKLE on January 15, 2019:

1/12/19 I was sitting in my hunting tree stand in the dark waiting for the sun to rise. Suddenly I was hit hard on the side of my head. Felt claws going into my face. Two of the talons just missed my right eye


Mohan Babu from Chennai, India on January 05, 2019:

Yes. They seem to know where it hurts the most. No wonder they are one of the top predators despite their size. Looking forward to some interesting information on Asian owls too.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on January 05, 2019:

You just have to be aware of when they have chicks, and know to be careful about them then. I would imagine most all owls are like that, although I do not know for certain.

They've all got massive power in their claws, and the human neck, you know, has a blood vessel there which wouldn't be hard for a raptor to puncture.

Now you've got me curious, Mohan, about Asian owls!

Mohan Babu from Chennai, India on January 05, 2019:

I had seen an owl once from a very close distance in our neighborhood. It was a rare and enjoyable sight. The owl did not mind my presence for some time and then flew away. Back then, I did not know that owls could attack human beings. Anyways, the ones we see here in India are most certainly not the Great Horned Owls. It is strange that a four pound bird could kill an alert human being who is supposedly more intelligent and weighs around two hundred pounds.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on November 27, 2018:

Kinda like coyotes, Louise, they tend to be heard but not seen. You kinda don't want to get too close to them if you do know where they are. Definitely you don't want to get close when they've got chicks.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on November 27, 2018:

These are such beautiful birds. I have never had the pleasure of seeing one though. They are so gorgeous.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 29, 2018:

I have not had the pleasure of meeting one of these preditor owls, but their story is fascinating. I love all types of birds, and learning so much about these owls was fascinating. I love all the pictures, and I liked learning all the details of their existance.

chris on April 18, 2018:

is he okay

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on January 29, 2018:

Sounds like cackatoo is a favorite meal! Great story!

Laurel Burritt on January 29, 2018:

I am a keeper of house birds and also feed wild ones. Yesterday morning at 6 am, a great horned owl was on our patio and my Goffin cockatoo made a blood curdling scream. When I opened the door, the owl left.

But last night, he returned. With drapes drawn down, he hit the window with such force that we are surprised that it didn't break. We turned on the patio light, to see him again sitting about 10 feet from the window.

But he did this same thing, two more times; hitting the window and us chasing him off.

I, too, see them frequently in our yard at dawn and dusk, but never before have I experienced one trying to break into the house.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on January 16, 2018:

Hey Lassiter, according to my bit of knowledge, which is by no means absolute, they only attack people if a person gets too close to their nest, and then, only if there are chicks in the nest.

But hey, those birds are super predators, so who knows?

I would never let a small child outside were I to know a Great Horned Owl's nest was nearby. I'd not put it past one to think a small human looked like lots of meals.

lassiter on January 16, 2018:

I live in Pensacola, Florida and I believe an owl tried to attack me. I was out at my pool pump and was walking back. I noticed a shadow overhead and it went by a couple of times. I reached the awning over my patio and went into the house, but I was curious so I looked and saw an owl perched on my privacy fence.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on June 10, 2017:

Sherie I'd love to see the pictures, but I sure don't know about why an Owl would have a fixation for you. I know I'd think it was the coolest damned thing in the world if one was seemingly protective or inquisitive about me. Or, it could also scare the beejeepers out of me. Either way it'd be something I'd like, as I'd feel distinguished. But do be careful.

Sherie Hein on June 10, 2017:

Our neighborhood is full of ours and they are probably barn owls I don't know but I have a question I hear them every night all night mostly but I never ever hear them during the full moon. Do you know why that is?

Sherie Hein on June 10, 2017:

This particular owl began "watching"( for lack of a better word ) me since last summer. Everyone thought it cute at first he would show up every evening, then he tried to land on me. My daughters look just like me and he knows the difference if it's me or them outside. He's not trying to hurt me bc he has walked up to me already. What is going on? I have pics. It went so far as him flying alongside our vehicle looking in the window to see if it was me but turned away when he saw it was my husband.

Lynn Dekle from Mobile, Alabama on June 08, 2017:

I saw a great horned owl being mobbed by birds this morning. I was out walking my dog & heard a lot of loud bird noise up in a tree. I looked up & saw a large bird facing away from me being harassed by a group of smaller birds ... I wasn't sure if it was an owl or a hawk at first, but then he turned his head and looked straight down at me. Definitely a great horned owl. We hear them hooting at different times of the year in our neighborhood. Occasionally I see one when out for an early run, but this was the best look I've ever had of one. He wasn't that far from me and he sat there for a while, but he was obviously annoyed by the birds & finally flew off.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on May 24, 2017:

That's so very very cool. And I'm glad to hear the offspring production has risen. It could be they become familiar with familiar persons, and no longer consider those specific persons threats, or at least not major threats. I sure wish I had some Great Horned Owls to talk to, Sarah! :)

Sarah Speier on May 24, 2017:

We have a mated pair of Great Horned Owls that come every spring to have their babies in the Palm trees inside our courtyard at work. The first year we were here they had two babies. The following year, they had two but one fell out of the nest and died. The next year, only a single baby. This year they had 3! The biggest one of the three just starting trying out his wings. They're so inquisitive. They've never (to my knowledge) attacked anyone and they look at us when we talk to them, but we never get too close. After reading this article, I may allow a bit more distance.

Breanna Marie Miller on March 23, 2017:

I LOVED the pictures!!!!!

Michele on December 30, 2016:

We have Great Horned Owls who nest in our yard. Unbeknownst to us, one of the babies fell out of the nest (unharmed) and my husband was in the yard and an adult owl attacked him, which I witnessed. SO SCARY! They are incredibly powerful.

Ann Carr from SW England on February 21, 2016:

Wouldn't that be cool!


The Logician from then to now on on February 20, 2016:

Oh yeah, started with chicken hearts and gizzards and once he was able to fly gave him as many mice a day he could eat. He was so docile and tame I hated letting him go but the mice were getting expensive. Could be he was raised by someone or a wildlife rehabber and released that summer before I found him.

I have two screech owl nest boxes I have to relocate. They are in Ash trees that are now dead. Man I have a dozen dead ash trees on my property I have to cut down thanks to the emerald ash borer The electric company comes through every year and cuts down any ash trees near enough to fall on the lines and already got three of mine but I have more off the road.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 20, 2016:

That is one damned fine looking bird! Looks like you fed the feller well!

The Logician from then to now on on February 20, 2016:

Wes, just download a recording of their hooting during mating season, sit quietly at dusk or dawn play it loud and watch (bring a flash light). You'll hear them off a mile away before they appear.

Hey I just remembered I had a pic of the one I brought back to life in my one hub page. Here he is, he's in a glass chandelier I turned into a "cage" for him while I had him recuperating.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 20, 2016:

Thanks Ann! I just happened into that first photo, and it inspired me to read about the bird and write the page.

I had a strange encounter late one night way out in a rural area where one of the great horned owls was just standing next to a stop sign. I've only ever seen one on one other occasion. Makes me want to buy some high dollar night vision goggles!

Ann Carr from SW England on February 20, 2016:

I adore birds of prey and this one is magnificent. I love the first photo; stunning!

I have nothing but admiration for such creatures. They have to survive so that's why they behave the way they do; some would call it cruel, horrible, whatever, but their skills are honed to a fine art.

Thanks for all the information; didn't know about the ears.

I've spent many hours at a Hawk Conservancy in Hampshire; a wonderful place which offers about the only opportunity to get up close to birds of prey. I'd willingly work there but it's two counties away!

I used to know a boy who went to my primary school who had a pet chough; it spent most of the day on his shoulder - not in school though!

Great hub!


Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on January 25, 2016:

Crows! Heh, you're the only person I've heard of with a pet crow!

I do like a gothic bird though! I'd like to see a gang of crows gang up on the horned owl, they do that, not with much success, but they do try - for the obvious reason, the horned owl will eat one when it can; so they gang up on the owls and harass them :)

Those birds are smarter than most people think they are.

The Logician from then to now on on January 24, 2016:

I had a pair of barn owls I raised from babies, long story but I got them from the tower of an old building in the middle of my college campus where a Barn Owl nested. There were literally dozens of people walking around the campus under the tower (three stories up) and in the building day and night. The owls were really interesting "pets" but the best pets I ever had were my crows. I wrote about all this stuff in my Hub Pages but how about you doing a Hub Page on the saw whet owl. I found one once in a snow storm by the railroad tracks - obviously must have flown into a train in the snow storm, but reading about them I found them to be quite interesting.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on January 24, 2016:

tsadjatko - AWESOME!

Wish I had those experiences. I know the horned owls eat smaller owls, but I figure they mostly feel like they're just removing some of the competition!

Damn, that is a problem with the poisoning of anything, the unintended consequences.

Wild that a wild owl would be tame, but then again they probably have the ability to sense things we don't understand all of. It seemed to sure know you weren't a threat. I'd read that persons into falconry have had some success with these owls, but only the younger ones - as they get older they don't follow instructions so well!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on January 24, 2016:

Moonlake - that is AWESOME!

I've only seen a few of them in person in 'the wild.' One night late at night and in the rural sticks a friend and I saw one standing at a crossroads late at night, off to the side of the road, near to a stop sign.

We were so unsure of what we saw (while driving) that we turned around and went back, got out, and walked near to the bird. There it was, just standing there - looking large and fearsome.

"Don't get too close!" My friend said.

We stood and looked at it for a minute or two, it never moved, just stood there. I think surely the bird was injured or something, but I couldn't tell by looking at it, it was a wild experience.

The Logician from then to now on on January 23, 2016:

Well done Wes, these birds are so awesome. I've had screech owls as pets and spent a lot of time and nights playing recordings of owls to draw them to me. With recordings in mating season I've drawn screech owls so close to me I actually grabbed one out of the air once.

Once at dusk I was watching three screech owls I had drawn to me (two males were courting thew female) with a recording of their voices and decided to play the great horned owl recording. The screech owls instantly disappeared, the are prey of Great Horned owls.

I also nursed a Great Horn back to health one winter just 5 years ago. Saw him fall to the ground in the snow in the back yard. I think he had eaten mice that were poisoned by rat poison. I gave him vitamin K and in a few days he was good as normal. Actually it was strange because he was totally tame with me, sat in a parrot cage all day and would let me walk around the house with him perched on my (protected) arm. In late winter I put him in an aviary outside. Whenever I'd approach him he'd make a clicking noise, very loud and distinguishable. I'm still not sure if it is a warning or a sign he liked me! Eventually, when I got tired of buying mice to feed him, I left the door to the aviary open and after a couple days he left.

moonlake from America on January 23, 2016:

We had run into town with our other kids to get groceries. When we got home our 14-year-old son stood in our kitchen with a great horned owl on his arm. He was lucky the bird didn't take his eyes out. He found it in a trap. I don't know if it was so calm because he saved it or because it was in shock. He took it outside raised his arm high and it flew off. He had a heavy jacket on that is what saved his arm. It had been caught in the trap by one of its talons. Somewhere around here, I have a picture of him holding that bird.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on January 23, 2016:

Yes, the humans could learn a thing or two about mating and child rearing from the great horned owls. Mating for life and caring totally for the young isn't so common in humans!

A vole is basically just a mouse, a merganser is a duck :D

Carolee Samuda from Jamaica on January 23, 2016:

There are animals in that there diet I have never even heard of, like a vole and mergansers. The one thing about this creature, like many others, is that they take care of their family. It's kind of romantic when you think about it. I'm in love with this great horned owl.

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