Great Horned Owl

These large birds are year-round residents of Frederick County. Their feathered tufts give them a distinctive look. This bird is often depicted in cartoons with horizontal ear tufts and eye glasses as the “wise old owl”.

Photo from Maryland DNR

Great horned owls (Bubo virginianus) are widely distributed, and are easily recognized by their hooting call which has also caused them to be called “hoot owls”. They are widely distributed in Frederick County, and they can often be heard locally. If you live in a suburban, reasonably quiet location, you can, many evenings or early mornings, hear them calling back and forth.

Great Horned Owls are up to two feet tall and have up to five foot wingspans. Their coloration is a mottled grey brown, a reddish tint on their face. Typical of all owls, they have huge eyes and excellent night vision. The feathers, also like other owls, are adapted for silent flight. They can use differential hearing to locate prey in the darkest nights.

Great Horned Owls are adaptable to a wide variety of habitat, including evergreen and deciduous forests.

Generally nocturnal hunters, upon occasion, they will be seen seeking prey in the daytime. Occasionally during the daytime, a mob of crows will be seen attacking owls, which are their mortal enemies. Great Horned Owls prey on mammals such as rabbits and groundhogs, among others. They also prey on birds such as crows and ducks. They are also capable of killing large birds of prey such as hawks, ospreys and other owls.

Much has been written and available about the Great Horned Owl, and a number of on-line sources of recordings of their calls are available.

Article by Claude Eans, FCFCDB member

Nature note for 7/7/2019