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Brown County, WI
20 February 1972, 4 April 1976
Tom Erdman, Richter Museum, Jim Steffen

horned owl chick with prey.

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)

If you’ve been outside at night in the last month, you may have heard the five-note call of the male Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) advertising his territory against would-be competitors. If you listened closely you may have even heard the seven-note response from the female.

Great-Horned Owls typically start advertising their territories in late Fall-early Winter. Now, in early February, female “Hornies” are already sitting on eggs in the Southern and Central parts of the state. Horned Owls typically use old stick nests build by Hawks, Crows, Ravens, Eagles, Ospreys, and even Great Blue Herons.

Horned Owl nests are often easy to locate since stick nests are so visible at this time of the year. Another way to locate Horned Owls is to listen for the sound of American Crows ‘mobbing’ the male as he looks for prey. The photo inset shows the unfortunate result for one crow who may have gotten just a little too aggressive in his mobbing of a Horned Owl. Hungry ols will eat just about anything smaller than themselves that they can catch including ducks, feral cats, possums, muskrats, and skunks. In fact in the midwest Great Horned owls are important predators of skunks which have few other natural predators.

To learn more about the distribution of nesting owls sited in Wisconsin visit the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas.

Contributed by Andy Paulios

© 2001-2004 The Cofrin Center for Biodiversity and the University of Wisconsin Green Bay, All Rights Reserved
Last updated on April 15, 2014