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Great Horned Owl Montana

Great Horned Owl Montana (Animals)

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he Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus, is a large owl native to the Americas. It is an adaptable bird with a vast range and is the most widely distributed true owl in the Americas.

The Magellanic Horned Owl (B. magellanicus) of the Pacific Andes was for some time included in this species too.


Common Great Horned Owl, B. v. virginianus (Gmelin, 1788 (233 years ago)) – USA eastwards from Minnesota to E Texas; northeastwards to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Canada. Resident all-year.
South American Great Horned Owl, B. v. nacurutu (Vieillot, 1817 (204 years ago)) – A lowland form occurring in disjunct populations from from E Colombia to the Guyanas; also from Bolivia and Brazil south of the Amazonas basin to N Argentina; resident all-year. Includes the proposed subspecies scotinus, elutus, and deserti. The status of this form, especially the relationships between the subpopulations and with ssp. nigrescens and the Magellanic Horned Owl, deserves more study.
Northern Great Horned Owl, B. v. subarcticus Hoy, 1852 (169 years ago) – Breeding range from Mackenzie, British Columbia region E to Hudson Bay; southern limit unclear but at least reaches to Montana and North Dakota. Non-breeding birds are regularly found south to latitude 45°S, occasionally beyond. Includes the birds described as occidentalis (but see below), and sclariventris. The older name wapacuthu was occasionally used for this subspecies, but it cannot with certainty be assigned to a recognizable taxon and is thus considered a nomen dubium. The population described as algistus is probably based on wandering individuals and/or intergrades of subarcticus, saturatus and lagophonus.
Californian Great Horned Owl, B. v. pacificus Cassin, 1854 (167 years ago) – Central and southern California west of the Sierra Nevada except San Joaquin Valley, south to NW Baja California, Mexico. Intergrades with pallescens in San Diego County, California (see also below). Resident all-year.
Coastal Great Horned Owl, B. v. saturatus Ridgway, 1877 (144 years ago) – Pacific coast from SE Alaska to N California. Resident all-year.
North Andean Great Horned Owl, B. v. nigrescens Berlepsch, 1884 (137 years ago) – Andes; arid temperate and puna zones from Colombia to NW Peru. Resident all-year round.
Desert Great Horned Owl, B. v. pallescens Stone, 1897 (124 years ago) – San Joaquin Valley southeastwards through arid regions of SE California and S Utah eastwards to W Kansas and southwards to Guerrero and W Veracruz in Mexico; intergrades with pacificus in San Diego County; vagrant individuals of lagophonus and the Rocky Mountains population, which look similar to intergrades, also seem to occur in its range. Resident all-year.
Yucatán Great Horned Owl, B. v. mayensis (Nelson, 1901 (120 years ago)) – Yucatán Peninsula. Resident all-year.
Baja California Great Horned Owl, B. v. elachistus Brewster, 1902 (119 years ago) – S Baja California, Mexico. Resident all-year.
Northeastern Great Horned Owl, B. v. heterocnemis (Oberholser, 1904 (117 years ago)) – Breeds in E Canada (N Quebec, Labrador, Newfoundland). In winter, disperses southwards to Ontario to NE USA. Doubtfully distinct from saturatus[verification needed].
Northwestern Great Horned Owl, B. v. lagophonus (Oberholser, 1904 (117 years ago)) – Breeds from inland Alaska south through mountaineous areas of British Columbia to NE Oregon, the Snake River, and NW Montana. Reported in winter as far south as Colorado and Texas. Doubtfully distinct from saturatus.
Central American Great Horned Owl, B. v. mesembrinus (Oberholser, 1904 (117 years ago)) – Isthmus of Tehuantepec to W Panama. Resident all-year.
Rocky Mountains Great Horned Owl, B. v. ssp. nov.? – The Rocky Mountains population may constitute an as yet undescribed subspecies. It breeds south of the Snake River south to Arizona, New Mexico, and the Guadalupe Mountains. Westwards, it is presumed to occur to the Modoc Plateau and Mono Lake. The name occidentalis may apply to these birds pending analysis of the type specimen; certainly, they were included in the presumed subspecies named thus, but intergradation between pallescens and lagophonus and altitudinal migration of Rocky Mountain birds is not sufficiently researched yet.


Individual Great Horned Owls range in length from 18-27 in (46-68 cm) and have a wingspan of 40-60.5 in (101-153 cm); Females are larger than males, an average adult being 22 in (55 cm) long with a 49 in (124 cm) wingspan and weighing about 3.1 lbs (1400 g). Bergmann's Rule generally holds: larger individuals are found towards Polar regions, smaller towards the Equator.

Adults have large ear tufts, a reddish, brown or gray face and a white patch on the throat. The iris is yellow, except the amber-eyed South American Great Horned Owl (B. v. nacurutu). Its "horns" are neither ears nor horns, simply tufts of feathers. The underparts are light with brown barring; the upper parts are mottled brown. The legs and feet are covered in feathers up to the talons. There are individual and regional variations in color; birds from the sub-Arctic are a washed-out, light-buff color, while those from Central America can be a dark chocolate brown.

Their call is a low-pitched but loud ho-ho-hoo hoo hoo; sometimes it is only four syllables instead of five. The female's call is higher and rises in pitch at the end of the call. Young owls make hissing or screeching sounds that are often confused with the calls of Barn Owls.

Great Horned Owls can be easily confused with the Magellanic Horned Owl (B. magellanicus) and other eagle-owls. They are all generally allopatric though.




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