Great Horned Owl photo by Jon Christopher Meyers

Great Horned Owl

This owl is named for its most distinctive feature -- large, wide-set ear tufts or 'horns' that give its head a cat-like shape. Females are larger than males, and the sexes look alike. The head is large, with feathering across the forehead that shades the yellow eyes into a fierce expression. The body is broad and bulky, the tail is short, and the talons are large and very strong. The wingspan of this owl is comparable to the wingspan of a large hawk. The largest of North American owls with ear tufts, and one of the largest owls on the continent, this owl is a fierce-looking predator. Four subspecies of Great Horned Owl are based on regional color differences ranging from very dark to very pale birds; there are also many intermediate types.  [Lorax] The Pacific subspecies (very dark overall), is the one most commonly seen in western Oregon; the other three subspecies are the West Taiga (pale gray), the Southwest (darker gray), and the Eastern (tawny-orange face). This owl is swift and graceful in flight, moving with stiff, steady wing beats, with wings held mostly below horizontal; flight speeds up to 40mph have been recorded.


Meet our resident Great Horned Owls:

Lorax was found when she was about three weeks old on April 2005 in Pendleton. She was on the ground and suffering from several fractures to the right wing, as well as damage to the elbow and wrist bones, after a fall from her very high nest. The fractures to the radius and ulna would have been difficult to fix in an adult bird, they were nearly impossible in a bird this young, whose bones were still growing. Any injury to or near a joint almost always results in loss of mobility, as the healing done by the body results in calcium deposits that inhibit motion. Because of her young age when coming into human care, Lorax is well socialized to people and has become a valuable member of the Education Team. Lorax loves her toys and has a special location in her enclosure where she caches (stores) them.

Adoptive "Parents" of Lorax:
For the love of birds on Valentine's Day - Sean & Connor Brine  •  Susan Bogenschild
Mountain Rose Herbs  •  Shereena Dyer  •  In loving memory of Michael Wiederhold 
Cathy & Mark Freeman  •  Lisa St. Clair & Mike Carpenter   •  Moss Crossing
The Wilde Family •  Rebecca Olson  •  Heather Ottoman  •  Ian Propst 
Seneca Family of Companies •  In caring memory of Steve Taylor  
In Memory of our Beloved Noah Reece 2006-2018  •. Aaron VanDerlip

Neville joined us at the Cascades Raptor Center in July of 2017, when he was surrendered by a member of the public at about three months old.  He had been taken from the wild as a baby and hand-reared, which means he never had the opportunity to learn how to be an owl from his parents.  Our training team evaluated Neville for life as an education ambassador and found him to be a confident, comfortable, and willing participant - enthusiastic for interaction and receptive to choice-based positive reinforcement methods.

An important part of Neville’s training is self-loading into his travel crate.  He’ll quickly jump in when asked by his trainers, who reward him with tasty mice or other surprises.  When his trainers aren’t around, he’ll cache his stuffed toys inside, hiding them to play with later.  This lets us know that he’s using his crate even when we aren’t asking him to, a sure sign of comfort.

Neville is practicing every day, building his confidence in front of small groups of guests, and someday when he is ready he’ll teach entire audiences about just how amazing Great Horned Owls can be!

Adoptive "Parents" of Neville:
The Piechowicz Family  •  The Mulbry Family  •  Agriculture Capital  •  John Gerboth & Deanna Hagy
The LaFayette Family  •  ​Brian & Ruth Erickson  •  Birdsong Speech Therapy Associates

Valentino, a small, dark and handsome male (or so we thought) came to the Raptor Center from the Mt Shasta region of northern California. He had been illegally raised in the spring of 2009 and released at the home of his finders. He continued to come for food and when they called him. When his finders moved, the new residents threatened to shoot him. Valentino was captured and turned over to a rehabilitator, who brought him immediately to the Cascades Raptor Center for assessment in September 2009. Valentino is either a human imprint and too highly socialized for release. He still begs for food from people and would undoubtedly go looking for human contact if released - a dangerous proposition. Valentino is a valuable member of our Education Team. In 2014, Valentino earned the “Most Improved Team Member” award for his continued contribution to our programming. To the surprise of everyone on staff, Valentino built a nest in 2018, filling it with two eggs. 

Adoptive "Parents" of Valentino:
Maggie, Miles, Caden, Keeghan & Carsyn McMillen  •  Nancy Whitten in memory of Lann Whitten
Kaitlyn Galileo  •  Donna Oberhardt  •  Keith Kohan & Mary Ann Baclawski  •  Eleanor Turner 
Sue Carbajal  •  Leo Rickard  •  The Fry Family  •  Frances Munkenbeck  •  Eliza Bliss  •  Aaron Vanderlip  •  Anika Lawless


Scientific Name

Bubo virginianus


Length: 22" ave.

Wing Span: 44" ave.

Weight: 3.1 lb. ave. 


State and federally protected. 


Has the widest range of habitat and climate variations of any North American owl; adaptable to habitat change. Lives in forests, open country, woodlots, riparian areas, deserts, city parks. May often be spotted roosting in the daytime, usually in a tall tree, close to the trunk. 


Prefers rats and mice, but will eat a large variety of prey - mammals from the size of shrews to porcupines, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Primarily semi-nocturnal to nocturnal, but will also hunt in the daytime. Hunts from a high perch, making a short flight to capture prey once it's been detected. 


The Great Horned Owl will lean forward, lift its tail, and vibrate its white throat feathers when giving its characteristic call of five or six deep, resonant hoots: Whoo! hoo-Hoo-hoo,...Whoo! Whoo! 


This owl nests in trees, on cliffs, in caves, and sometimes on the ground. Will use abandoned hawk nests if these are available or, since it nests earlier in the season than hawks over most of its range, it will simply appropriate an attractive nest. 

Most Common Problems

Collision with vehicles. Other common injuries include poisoning from rodenticides, gunshot wounds, electrocution from contact with powerlines, entangling in wire

Range Map

Found throughout North America, south to the tip of South America. Migratory over the northernmost part of its North American range, in Canada and Alaska.



Special Thanks for range maps:

Dan Gleason
BGleason Design & Illustration
Commercial & Scientific Illustration, Graphic Design
CraneDance Communications
Book Production/Design