Great Horned Owl Facts and Habitats

Great horned owl facts and habitats. Learn more owl facts including the history of the great horned owl, food sources and habitats of the owl.

| July/August 1987

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    This wide-ranging owl lords it over all other raptors in its territory, and often strikes and carries off prey without ever touching down.
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    Map of the far-ranging great horned owl's territory in the U.S. and beyond.

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This story of the great homed owl shares a number of owl facts that prove how capable this bird is when it comes to survival in the wild. 

Great Horned Owl Facts and Habitats: Survival in the Wild

Recently I read that there are two kinds of people in this world: those who love cats, and those who don't. Well, yes, I suppose you could say that. But if we're going to generalize, then let's add that there are also two kinds of cats in this world: city kitties that keep mostly indoors and purr in their owners' laps, and semiferal country cats that prowl loose and unbelled, playfully destroying every bird and small animal they can lay claws on. The first kind is a heartwarming joy to its owner; the second can be a scourge to wildlife.

Unfortunately, the only feline I regularly come in contact with epitomizes the latter class: old Tom, a hefty white Manx belonging to a neighbor just down the mountain. Tom is a born hunter who, for several years, methodically attempted to consume every chipmunk, squirrel, rabbit kit and ground-nesting bird that crossed my little rural acreage or his own.

But poetic justice thrives in nature, and one evening last summer the hunter became the hunted. As told by Tom's owner—who happened to be outside puttering around and witnessed the drama unfold—Tom was out hunting, as usual, slinking ghostlike across a nearby meadow in the waning light. Just a normal work night for Tom the neighborhood terror. Then, suddenly and savagely, Tom became a flying feline, grasped firmly (and, one can assume, uncomfortably) about the head and neck by huge talons, jerked abruptly off the ground and hoisted skyward by a great horned owl. A few moments into its escape flight, the owl off-loaded the pussycat, then winged away into the sunset.

That much we know from eyewitness account.

To get the owl's side of the story, we'll have to be creative: Mr. Owl has just clocked in for the night shift when his sharp, searching eyes detect a light-hued form slipping through the evening shadows below. Recognizing the general shape, size and color of his favorite meal, the cottontail rabbit, Mr. Owl figures this to be his lucky night; he'll dine early, then retire to the deep dark woods to share a few good hoots with the boys. Getting right to work, Mr. Owl drops from cruising altitude in a swift and silent glide, striking his unwary prey with stunning force. "Heavy sucker," Mr. Owl grunts as he flaps away with what he supposes to be a trophy-class bunny.

Florence Walter
10/24/2012 11:05:01 AM

Great article! We heard what we determined to be the screeching call of a great horned owl while camping at Cranberry Lake in the Adirondacks in NY. I also could not find that raucous calling duplicated. What a majestic creature!

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