South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Great Horned Owl

Bubo virginianus

Length: 19 to 25 inches Wingspan: 40 to 60 inches Seasonality: All Seasons
ID Keys: Large ear tufts, large size, yellow eyes, horizontal belly bars.

Great Horned Owl - Bubo virginianusThe Great Horned Owl is the most widespread owl in North America, being found from the treeline near the Arctic south through the rest of the continent.  Powerful predators, they will take prey larger and heavier than themselves.  Great Horned Owls are among the earliest nesting birds, starting as early as mid- to late-winter.

Habitat: Can be found in nearly any habitat in North America, although it requires suitable nesting habitat during its breeding season.

Diet: Wide variety, with more mammals than other types of animals.  Will eat rabbits and hares, rats, mice, ground squirrels, skunks, opossums, snakes, lizards, frogs, large insects, and birds up to the size of geese.  They will take larger prey relative to their size than many birds of prey, even taking on porcupines and similarly sized prey.

Behavior: Primarily nocturnal, although they will occasionally hunt in the late evening.  Usually hunts by observing from a high perch and swooping down to capture prey once spotted.

Nesting: January through May.  Great Horned Owls are one of the earliest nesting birds in South Dakota.

Breeding Map: Breeding Bird Survey map

Song: Great Horned Owl (pair)

Migration: Permanent resident throughout its range, although individuals may wander widely.

Similar Species: Long-eared Owl

Conservation Status: Widespread and common, with no apparent significant population declines.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Great Horned Owl

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Great Horned Owl"

3) -- Great Horned Owl

Photo Information: April 13th, 2006 - Minnehaha County - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Great Horned Owl photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Great Horned Owl - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common permanent resident throughout the state.