Birmingham Zoo
  • Today's Regular Hours: Closed

Great Horned Owl

Common Name

Great Horned Owl

Latin Name

Bubo virginianus












Bubo virginianus

Geographic Range

Most of North America and south into Central and South America


Found in most habitat types in North America. Swamps, deserts, forest, wetlands. Can be found in both urban and rural settings.

Physical Description

The Great Horned Owl is one of the most recognizable owls found in North America due to its large earl tufts that resemble horns. It is a highly camouflaged owl being mostly mottled brown with a large white patch on its throat. Color tone does vary regionally.

Physical Characteristics

Wingspan: 3-5 feet

Weight: 3-5 pounds with females being larger than the males

Length: 17-25 inches from head to tail

Life Expectancy

10-15 years in the wild. Around 30 years in human care.


Wild: Skunks, squirrels, rats, birds
Zoo: Rats and mice


The Great Horned Owl is a relatively early breeder when compared to other raptor species. Breeding normally takes place November to January. Females normally lay an average of 3 eggs. Incubation period for Great Horned Owls is around 30-37 days.

Cultural Connection

Great Horned Owls have a deep connection to many cultures. Many Native American tribes actually saw the Great Horned Owl not actually as an owl but as a transformed witch or as the unquiet spirits of the dead. In the Hopi tribe the Great Horned Owl is seen as a humorless lawman who plays the role of “straight man” against the antics of the Koshari clowns.

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Location at the Zoo

Alabama Wilds Trail

Our Animals

Aubry; age unknown. Aubry is a rescued bird from the Southeastern Raptor Center. Her specific age is unknown but she has been at the Zoo since 2013.

Fascinating Facts

Owls have 14 vertebrae in their neck that allow them to turn their head 270 degrees right or left from the forward facing position.

The Great Horned Owl is the largest owl species that occurs in Alabama.

The Great Horned Owl has a very unique call. It is made up of soft hoots with a stuttering rhythm: hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo