This is OLLI, a Great Horned Owl. We believe Olli is a male, native to our area, and is about 3-4 years old. Olli came to us with an injured wing. He is a joy, and will be an ambassador of his species. Due to his injury, he is non-releasable. He will be a wonderful addition to our educational programs, and we are delighted to have him here in his permanent home!

The Great Horned Owl is one of the most common birds of prey and lives throughout the Americas year round. There are a large number of subspecies, whose main differences are mainly in color and size. Olli is a California Great Horned Owl.

Great Horned Owls have light gray to dark brown feathery ear tufts (hence the name ‘Horned’ owl). They have horizontal breast barring with gray to brown, mottled bodies. Their face has a dark outline with a lighter brown center and sometimes a white bib under the chin. They have sharp, black talons and beaks. They have large, round gold eyes, which cannot move. To look up, down or to the side the owls must move their entire heads and are able to turn their necks 180 degrees.

Great Horned Owls are widespread and have adapted to many different habitats. They are most often found in forests, woodlands and shrublands. Great Horned Owls hunt mainly at night by perching or gliding slowly high above the ground. They also hunt during the day in winter. They have large territories, which need to be large enough to provide an adequate hunting area that they defend from others of their species. When they spot prey, they dive down to the ground with wings folded. The prey is usually killed instantly when grasped by the owl’s large, curved talons. Their diet is very diverse, including rodents, hares, squirrels, skunks, and various birds such as geese, grouse, ducks and pigeons. They sometimes eat fish, large insects and scavenge road killed animals. Owls eat their prey whole but cannot digest the fur, feather or bones, so they will periodically cough up pellets containing the undigested bits of their meal.

Most Great Horned Owls mate for life beginning at 2 years old, and lay their eggs each year long before the snow melts. Great Horned Owls do not usually build their own nests. Instead they nest in the abandoned stick nests of another bird, on cliffs or occasionally even in hollow trees. The owls find a new nest each year since the young are so active that they virtually destroy their nests.

The Great Horned Owl’s only natural enemy is other Great Horned Owls, though occasionally other birds may try to get their eggs.

 

Great Horned Owl Statistics:

Body Length 18-25 inches
Wing Span 35-60 inches
Tail 7-10 inches
Weight 3-5 pounds, females are larger
Gestation Period Eggs incubate for 28-35 days
Litter Size 1-5 eggs
Life Span Maximum recorded longevity is over 28 years
Status Not endangered: populations are robust
Other common names Hoot owl, chicken owl, eagle owl, king owl