Great Horned Owl

Bubo virginianus

NH Conservation Status: Not listed


State Rank Status: Uncertain. No data for NH. Population increasing in some parts of range but decreasing in other parts.


Distribution: Widespread, but uncommon, year-round resident of NH.


Description: Up to 25” in length with up to 57” wingspan. Males are smaller than females. Body color is mottled gray and brown with a white throat patch, rusty facial disk, yellow eyes and long ear tufts. Their eyes do not move but their heads can rotate 180 degrees.


Voice: Series of hoots w/ 2nd & 3rd shorter than others. “hoo, hoo-hoo, hoo, hoo.” Males and females may be heard calling back and forth to each other and can be distinguished by the deep pitch of the male vs. the high pitch of the female.

Commonly Confused Species: Long-eared owls are smaller and more slender bodied; barred owls lack ear tufts.


Habitat: Varies from extensive mature forests to small woodlots & may even be seen in city parks.


Nesting: Typically lay their eggs in a nest previously built by another species in trees such as beech or pine but may use standing dead trees, cavities or buildings as well. A full clutch consists of 1-4 eggs which the female incubates for up to 37 days. Hatchlings have closed eyes and pale skin with a little bit of down on their under-parts. They stay in the nest for up to 42 days.


Diet: Varied diet from tiny insects to large Canada geese. Primarily feed on small mammals, waterfowl but will also prey on mourning doves, crows, and woodchucks. Typically hunt at night but sometimes hunt during the day.