How to Find a Great Horned Owl

By John Lindell
Great horned owl

The great horned owl has a wide range across North America, living from the Arctic regions all the way down to Mexico and beyond. A powerful predator with excellent sight and hearing, the great horned owl is rarely seen. Its two ear tufts, composed of feathers, give the great horned owl its name. It is brown and gray with dark spots on its body and large yellow eyes. These tips may increase your chances of someday seeing a great horned owl.

Search the woods for owl pellets. The great horned owl, like all owls, eats its prey whole and then separates what cannot be digested in its gizzard into what are known as owl pellets. These pellets are balls of fur, bones, feathers, and whatever else can’t be digested by the bird. It then regurgitates these pellets, which fall to the ground below its roost or nest. Find owl pellets and you have a chance to see the owl that produced them.

Listen for the famous call of the great horned owl. The familiar “Hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo” refrain is made throughout the evening and can be four or five syllables. If you have the inclination and a sharp sense of direction when it comes to sound, you can try to locate the owl. Be aware, though, the great horned owl has superior hearing and may easily hear you as you approach.

Watch the activity of crows. Great horned owls are the mortal enemies of crows, feeding on their young any chance they get. This is why you often see great horned owl “scarecrows” in gardens. Crows will gather from near and far to caw and hassle an owl. Follow the noise and the hullaballoo, and see if you can spot the owl in the tree.

Keep alert while driving at night on country roads. Many drivers have been startled by a great horned owl swooping above the road in their headlights. You won’t get a good look at them in this way, but you may get an idea of their size, which can be up to 2 feet long with a wingspan of almost 5 feet.

Follow your nose. The great horned owl is one of the few predators of grown skunks. Their sense of smell is terrible, which means they don’t care how bad a skunk stinks; it is a potential meal. They will grab a skunk with their powerful talons and kill it quickly to make a snack of it.

About the Author

John Lindell has written articles for "The Greyhound Review" and various other online publications. A Connecticut native, his work specializes in sports, fishing and nature. Lindell worked in greyhound racing for 25 years.