The Great Horned Owl, also known as the Tiger Owl, is the provincial bird of Alberta and is one of the most widespread and common owls in North America. His “horns” are actually ear tufts, and are intended for visual effect only. They are unrelated to the owl’s hearing.
It's the top predator in its food chain, and is the only animal that regularly eats skunks. The Great Horned Owl will take large prey, even other raptorial birds, and he often kills and eats other owls. (Screech Owls are a favourite meal). He enjoys a broad diet of animals, from small mammals to rabbits, geese, and herons. He also eats amphibians, reptiles, and some invertebrates.
This owl is also an important predator on nestling Ospreys. The reintroduction of Peregrine Falcons has been hampered in some areas by Horned Owls killing both adult and nestling falcons. This bird is a deadly hunter.
The Horned Owl uses a variety of nest sites, including trees, cliffs, and buildings. However, they don’t construct their own nests. They take over nests made by other bird species, frequently red-tailed hawks in this part of the country.
At 18 - 25 inches long, with a 5 foot wingspan, the Great Horned is a large owl . . . bigger than a Barred Owl, but a bit smaller than the giant Great Grey Owl.
Photographed at Hawk Creek Wildlife Centre
East Aurora, New York