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Great Horned Owl Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Sarah Caughron

Sarah has a master's degree in Applied Anthropology/Archaeology and has worked in formal and informal education since 2006.

If you've ever been outside at night and heard a HOO HOO coming from the trees, you've probably heard a great horned owl. This lesson will teach you how these fascinating birds live.

What is a Great Horned Owl?

One of the most common owls in North America is the great horned owl. It can live just about anywhere including forests, cities, wetlands, grasslands, or backyards like yours. This relatively large owl weighs approximately 2 pounds and stands about 2.5 feet tall. They can live about thirteen years, and they can reach flight speeds of up to 40 miles per hour! The tufts on their head are actually feathers and not horns, as their name might suggest.

A Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl

The great horned owl has a very distinct call, or sound, that he uses to announce his territory. You may have even heard this call coming from the trees when you are outside at night. The hoot of this owl sounds like hoo-h'HOO-hoo-hoo.

When owls pair up and have baby owls, or chicks, they will lay their eggs in a nest left behind by other birds, like a red-tailed hawk. The female owl will lay between 1 and 4 eggs and work to protect her nest from predators. At around 3 months old, the great horned owl chick is ready for his first flight.

A Great Horned Owl adult and chick.
Great horned owl adult and chick

What does the Great Horned Owl Eat?

Great horned owls are carnivores, or meat eaters. They are considered birds of prey, which means they are part of a group of birds that hunt for food. Their favorite meals include mice, rabbits, and even other birds as large as geese!

Hunting at night, these birds are nocturnal and have a very sharp sense of hearing. They also have large eyes that help them see in the dark. An owl the size of you would have eyes as large as a softball! You can imagine it would require large muscles to move these large eyes. Owls have small skulls and lack the muscles required to move their large eyes. Instead, they are able to turn their heads to swivel and look in any direction. Like you, they have eyelids and eyelashes, and great horned owls blink very similarly to humans.

Great horned owls have excellent vision and sharp claws that help them hunt for prey.
Great horned owls have excellent vision and sharp claws used for hunting prey.

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