Great Horned Owls typically nest in trees such as cottonwood, juniper, beech, pine, and others. They usually adopt a nest that was built by another species, but they also use cavities in live trees, dead snags, deserted buildings, cliff ledges, and human-made platforms. In the Yukon they nest in white spruces with “witches’ brooms,” which are clumps of dense foliage caused by a fungus. They occasionally nest on the ground. Pairs may roost together near the future nest site for several months before laying eggs.
Nests often consist of sticks and vary widely in size, depending on which species originally built the nest (usually Red-tailed Hawks, other hawk species, crows, ravens, herons, or squirrels). Great Horned Owls may line the nest with shreds of bark, leaves, downy feathers plucked from their own breast, fur or feathers from prey, or trampled pellets. In some areas they add no lining at all. Nests deteriorate over the course of the breeding season, and are seldom reused in later years.
Dull white and nearly spherical, with a rough surface.
Condition at Hatching
Helpless, with closed eyes, pink skin, and white down on upperparts.
Great Horned Owls have the most diverse diet of all North American raptors. Their prey range in size from tiny rodents and scorpions to hares, skunks, geese, and raptors. They eat mostly mammals and birds—especially rabbits, hares, mice, and American Coots, but also many other species including voles, moles, shrews, rats, gophers, chipmunks, squirrels, woodchucks, marmots, prairie dogs, bats, skunks, house cats, porcupines, ducks, loons, mergansers, grebes, rails, owls, hawks, crows, ravens, doves, and starlings. They supplement their diet with reptiles, insects, fish, invertebrates, and sometimes carrion. Although they are usually nocturnal hunters, Great Horned Owls sometimes hunt in broad daylight. After spotting their prey from a perch, they pursue it on the wing over woodland edges, meadows, wetlands, open water, or other habitats. They may walk along the ground to stalk small prey around bushes or other obstacles.
Young owls give piercing screams when begging for food, while adults may scream to defend the nest. Adults make an array of other sounds, including whistles, barks, shrieks, hisses, coos, and wavering cries.
About the Savannah Owls
During the Fall of 2014, a pair of Great Horned Owls began frequenting this recently abandoned Bald Eagle nest adjacent to a protected, nutrient-rich salt marsh along the Georgia coast. The nest sits nearly 80′ above one of the six Audubon International Certified golf courses at The Landings, on Skidaway Island, near Savannah, Georgia. Over the course of the Fall, the owls courted intermittently on the nest platform, and their hoots could be heard echoing across the greens by nearby residents. Great Horned Owls do not build their own nests, relying on taking over the nests of other birds for their needs, and on the first day of the 2015, the female laid her first egg and the nest officially became “occupied”. As we approach the 2015 season, tune in and watch to see whether the owls will return to nest again for the 2016 season.
With its long, earlike tufts, intimidating yellow-eyed stare, and deep hooting voice, the Great Horned Owl is the quintessential owl of storybooks. This powerful predator can take down birds and mammals even larger than itself, but it also dines on daintier fare such as tiny scorpions, mice, and frogs. As with other raptors, the female can be distinguished from the male by her larger size; she also is the sole incubator of the eggs, relying on the male to provide her with food during incubation. It’s one of the most common owls in North America, equally at home in deserts, wetlands, forests, grasslands, backyards, cities, and almost any other semi-open habitat between the Arctic and the tropics. Learn more about them in our Species Guide.
The installation was funded by Skidaway Audubon, with approval from the Landings Club board. Essential species-specific information and support came from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Streaming systems vendor HDonTap installed the cameras and provided the managed live streaming service.
Support for the installation and upkeep has come from The Landings Association and The Landings Club with additional funding from Ogeechee Audubon, the Coastal Conservation Association, The Georgia Golf Course Superintendents Association, the Georgia Golf Environmental Foundation and Wild Birds Unlimited, Savannah.