Great horned owl
Bubo virginianus
 
ITIS Species Code:   177884         NatureServ Element Code:   ABNSB05010
 
Taxa: 
Order: 
Family: 
Aves
Str.giformes
Strigidae
NatureServe Global Rank: 
NatureServe State (NC) Rank: 
 
G5
S5
 
Federal Status: 
NC State Status: 
 
---
---
 
 
PARTNERS IN FLIGHT PRIORITY SCORES:
Southern Blue Ridge:  12 Southern Piedmont:  12 South Atl. Coastal Plain:  12
 
HEXAGONAL KNOWN RANGE:PREDICTED DISTRIBUTION:
 
SUMMARY OF STATEWIDE PREDICTED DISTRIBUTION:
 
Land Unit

US Fish & Wildlife Service
US Forest Service
US National Park Service
US Department of Defense
NC State Parks
NC University System
NC Wildlife Res. Com.
NC Forest Service
NC Div. of Coastal Mgmt.
Local Governments
Non-Governmental Org.
Other Public Lands
Private Lands

GAP Status 1-2
All Protected Lands
Statewide
 
Hectares

7,672.95
18,309.15
69,024.96
4,311.18
3,576.15
5,076.63
26,741.25
5,158.02
672.84
1,144.80
2,566.17
1,405.26
2,926,073.07

23,394.54
143,142.87
3,071,732.43
 
Acres

18,960.27
45,242.89
170,564.36
10,653.16
8,836.86
12,544.62
66,079.05
13,020.77
1,662.62
2,828.86
6,341.14
3,472.47
7,230,482.61

58,084.18
353,988.69
7,590,689.69
% of Dist. on
Prot. Lands

5.4 %
12.8 %
47.2 %
3.0 %
2.5 %
3.5 %
18.1 %
3.6 %
0.5 %
1.7 %
1.7 %
0.8 %
< 0.1 %

16.3 %
-----   
-----   
% of Dist. on
All Lands

0.2 %
0.6 %
2.2 %
0.1 %
0.1 %
0.2 %
0.9 %
0.2 %
< 0.1 %
< 0.1 %
< 0.1 %
< 0.1 %
95.3 %

0.8 %
-----   
-----   
 
HABITAT DESCRIPTION:
Subspecies virginianus (Johnsgard 1988) found throughout the state (Fussell and Lyons 1990, Potter et al. 1980).

Accepts a wide variety of habitats including forests of any type, orchards, swamps, marshes, ravines, partially wooded slopes (Karalus and Eckert 1987), cliffs, woodlots, suburbs, parks, and cemeteries (Wolfe and de la Torre 1990). Common elements include a relatively open hunting area with some tall perches present, and sites for nesting and roosting (Johnsgard 1988). In western and middle North Carolina, has been found primarily in dry (Potter et al. 1980) mature forests and edges (Simpson 1992). In the coastal plain, thought to be most common in edge areas between pine or mixed woods and marshes, fields, or clearings (Fussell 1994).

Roost sites are often among trees that are segregated from other trees in the area by size, type, or location and offer concealment during the day (Johnsgard 1988). Sits very near to the trunk while roosting (Karalus and Eckert 1987). Often uses an old nest of a hawk, heron, eagle, crow (Wolfe and de la Torre 1990) or squirrel (Ehrlich et al. 1988). Will also confiscate active nests of Bald Eagles (Palmer 1988) or Red-tailed Hawks one report of a pair nesting in the side of an active Bald Eagle nest (Potter et al. 1980). Usually nests in a tree but also in a cliff, ledge or crevice (Wolfe and de la Torre 1990), and occasionally in the bare crotch of a tree, on the ground, in a nest box (Karalus and Eckert 1987), in a tree cavity stump, or cave (Ehrlich et al. 1988). Hunts from perches in fairly open country (Johnsgard 1988, Kaufman 1996).

NATURE SERVE GLOBAL HABITAT COMMENTS:

Various forested habitats, moist or arid, deciduous or evergreen lowland forest to open temperate woodland, including second-growth forest, swamps, orchards, riverine forest, brushy hillsides, and desert. Very local in tropical lowlands (Hilty and Brown 1986).

Nest sites in different areas include: in trees in old or usurped nests of other birds (e.g., hawk, crow) or squirrel; tree cavities; stumps; rocky ledges; caves; in barns; and on artificial platforms. Usually in heaviest available timber in east; sites more diverse in arid west. Typically does not use same tree nest in successive years.

 
MODELING DESCRIPTION:
Occupied Landcover Map Units:
Code NameDescription NC Natural Heritage Program Equivalent
378 Ocean Beaches Open beach sand. Upper Beach
124 Maritime Scrubs and Tidal Shrublands Coastal shrubs including wax-myrtle, swamp rose, alder, yaupon, and greenbriar. Maritime Shrubs, Salt Shrub
375 Hypersaline coastal salt flats Tidal flats within salt marshes, including saltmeadow cordgrass or sea-purslane dominated alliances. Salt Marsh
372 Interdune Herbaceous Wetlands Dune swales with permanently flooded to intermittently exposed hydrology. Species composition depends on salinity and can include cut grass, spike-rush, mosquito fern, and hornwort. Interdune Pond, Maritime Wet Grasslands
371 Maritime Grasslands Dune grass community consisting of sea oats and beach grasses. Dune grass, Maritime dry grassland
121 Maritime Pinelands Loblolly forests and woodlands of the outer coastal plain. Estuarine Fringe Loblolly Pine Forest
17 Maritime Forests and Hammocks Maritime forests and woodlands dominated by live or sand laurel oak. Estuarine Fringe forests dominated by loblolly pine. Coastal Fringe Evergreen Forest, Maritime Deciduous Forest, Maritime Deciduous Forest
380 Coastal Plain Fresh Water Emergent Emergent vegetation in fresh water seepage bogs, ponds and riverbeds of the coastal plain. Includes alliances dominated by sedges, eelgrass, as well as cane found in unforested cane-brakes. Small Depression Pond, Sandhill Seep, Floodplain Pool, Unforested Floodplain Canebrake, Riverscour Prairies, Vernal Pools
173 Coastal Plain Riverbank Shrubs Shrub dominated riverbanks, commonly dominated by willows and/or alders. Sand and Mud Bar
63 Coastal Plain Mesic Hardwood Forests Beech dominated forests with white oak and northern red oak as possible co-dominants. Dry-mesic to mesic forests on slopes and small stream bottoms in the coastal plain. Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forest, Basic Mesic Forests
138 Coastal Plain Dry to Dry-Mesic Oak Forests Oak dominated forests of the coastal plain. Includes white oak forests with water oak or northern red oak and hickories as co-dominants. Dry Mesic Oak Hickory Forest, Basic Oak Hickory Forest, Dry Oak Hickory Forest
97 Mesic Longleaf Pine Longleaf pine woodlands without a major scrub oak component. Slash or loblolly pines may be present as well. Mesic Pine Flatwoods
42 Xeric Longleaf Pine Sandhills including a range of longleaf pine density from predominantly wiregrass, scrub oak dominated to true longleaf pine woodland. This does not include mesic or saturated flatwood types. Xeric Sandhill Scrub, Pine/Scrub Oak Sandhill, Coastal Fringe Sandhill
46 Xeric Oak - Pine Forests Mixed forest dominated by yellow pines with white or northern red oaks co-dominating. Pine Oak Heath
232 Xeric Pine-Hardwood Woodlands and Forests Mixed forest dominated by yellow pines with drier oaks including southern red, post, and chestnut oaks. Dry Oak Hickory Forest
239 Piedmont/Mountain Emergent Vegetation Emergent vegetation of all wetland hydrologies. Sites would commonly support species such as tussock sedge, rushs, and cattail alliances. Rocky Bar and Shore (in part)
267 Riverbank Shrublands Riverside shrubs with temporarily flooded hydrologies. Found in the both the Mountains and Piedmont. Containing dominants such as smooth alder and a Carolina or black willows. Sand and Mud Bar
269 Floodplain Wet Shrublands Saturated shrublands of the Piedmont, includes buttonbush, swamp-loosestrife, decodon and alders. Piedmont/mountain Semipermanent Impoundment
230 Piedmont Mesic Forest American Beech - Red Oak - White Oak Forests. Mesic Mixed Hardwood
383 Piedmont Mixed Successional Forest Generally loblolly mixed with successional hardwoods. Sweetgum, tulip poplar and red maple are common co-dominants in these successional forests. No equivalent
222 Piedmont Dry-Mesic Pine Forests Loblolly dominated forests resulting from succession following clearing. This type occurs on all moisture regimes following disturbance with the exception of the extremely xeric sites. No equivalent
220 Piedmont Xeric Pine Forests Dry to xeric pine forests dominated by Virginia pine, shortleaf pine or Eastern Red Cedar. Pine Oak Heath
226 Piedmont Xeric Woodlands Generally post and blackjack oak dominated woodlands. White ash and pignut hickory can be found in combination with Eastern red cedar on glades. Xeric Hardpan Forest
20 Coniferous Regeneration Regenerating pine stands. Predominantly loblolly pine, but slash and longleaf stands occur as well. No equivalent
21 Coniferous Cultivated Plantation (natural / planted) Managed pine plantations, densely planted. Most planted stands are loblolly, but slash and longleaf occur as well. No equivalent
36 Successional Deciduous Forests Regenerating deciduous trees with a shrub stature. Commonly dominated by sweetgum, tulip poplars and maples. No equivalent
180 Agricultural Crop Fields Farm fields used for row crops. No equivalent
205 Agricultural Pasture/Hay and Natural Herbaceous Farm fields used for pasture grass or hay production, as well as old fields dominated by native and exotic grasses. No equivalent
202 Residential Urban Includes vegetation interspersed in residential areas. Includes lawns, mixed species woodlots, and horticultural shrubs. Vegetation accounts for between 20 - 70% of the cover. No equivalent
517 Hemlock Floodplain Forest Alluvial forest with hemlock and/or white pine in mountains and western piedmont. Hydrology is generally temporarily to seasonally flooded. Canada Hemlock Forest
521 Spruce/Fir Forest High Elevation Frazer-Fir - Red Spruce, Red Spruce and Red-Spruce-Yellow Birch Forests. Tree densities included here include both woodland to forest density. Highly intermixed with Northern Hardwoods, Grassy Balds, and Shrub Balds. Red Spruce--Fraser Fir Forest, Fraser Fir Forest
523 Grassy Bald High Elevation grassy balds including Pennsylvania sedge, mountain oatgrass, as well as shrubby areas dominated by Alleghany and smooth blackberry. Grassy Bald
524 Shrub Bald Variable phenologies, predominantly evergreen balds with rhododendon and Mountain laurels. Deciduous shrubs including green alder and Alleghany and smooth blackberry are included as well. Red Oak - Chestnut Oak Woodlands may be included in cases where the density of the woodland species is low and the shrub component is dense. Heath Bald
527 Appalachian Hemlock Upland hemlock forests of the moutains region. Vary from side slopes to steep slope positions. Canada Hemlock Forest
528 Appalachian Xeric Pine Forest Pine forests and woodlands on xeric sites. A variety of pines, including Virginia, Shortleaf, Eastern White Pine, Table Mountain and Pitch pine. Often small areas of dense pine within a matrix of Xeric Oak-Pine Forests. Pine Oak Heath
529 Appalachian Xeric Mixed Forest Mixed forests with Virginia, Shortleaf, Eastern White Pine, Table Mountain and Pitch pines in combination with xeric oak species. Oaks include, white, Southern Red, black, and rock chestnut. Pine Oak Heath
535 Talus/Outcrops/Cliffs Includes seep talus slopes with sparce vegetation, as well as outcrops including, granitic outcrops. Some outcrops will have been mapped as barren rock. No equivalent
View Entire Landcover Legend
 
Additional Spatial Constraints:
Exclude all area outside of known range.
Limited to elevation range: less than 3500 ft.
Limited to edge habitats including forest/field borders, shrublands and woodlands.
 
CITATIONS:
Banks, R. C., and M. R. Browning. 1995. Comments on the status of revived old names for some North American birds. Auk 112:633-648.

Houston, C. S., and C. M. Frnacis. 1995. Survival of great horned owls in relation to the snowshoe hare cycle. Auk 112:44-59.

Simpson MB Jr. 1992. Birds of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press.

Fussell, J. III and M. Lyons. 1990. Birds of the Outer Banks [pamphlet]. Eastern National Parks and Monument Association Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society.

Fussell, J.O. III. 1994. A birderís guide to coastal North Carolina. Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press.

Kaufman K. 1996. Lives of North American Birds. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

McGillivray, W.B. 1989. Geographic variation in size and reverse size dimorphism of the great horned owl in North America. Condor 91:777-786.

Walker, Lewis Wayne. 1974. The book of owls. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. New York. 255 pp.

Austing, G. 1966. The world of the great horned owl. J.B. Lippincott Co., New York. 158 pp.

Clark, R. J., D. G. Smith, and L. H. Kelso. 1978. Working bibliography of owls of the world. National Wildlife Federation, Sci. & Tech. Ser. No. 1. 336 pp.

Harrison, C. 1978. A field guide to the nests, eggs and nestlings of North American birds. Collins, Cleveland, Ohio.

Harrison, H.H. 1979. A field guide to western birds' nests. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 279 pp.

Potter, E. F., J. F. Parnell, and R. P. Teulings. 1980. Birds of the Carolinas. Univ. North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill. 408 pp.

Terres, J.K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU), Committee on Classification and Nomenclature. 1983. Check-list of North American Birds. Sixth Edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Allen Press, Inc., Lawrence, Kansas.

Hilty, S.L., and W.L. Brown. 1986. A guide to the birds of Colombia. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. 836 pp.

Eckert, Allan W. 1978. The Owls of North America. Weather-vane Books, New York. 278 pp.

Karalus, K.E. and A.W. Eckert. 1987. The owls of North America. New York: Weathervane Books. 278 p.

Pendleton, B. A. Giron, et al. 1987. Raptor management techniques manual. National Wildlife Federation, Sci. and Tech. Ser. No. 10. 420 pp.

Houston, C. S. 1987. Nearly synchronous cycles of the great horned owl and snowshoe hare in Saskatchewan. Pp. 56-58 in Nero, R.W., et al., eds. Biology and conservation of northern forest owls. USDA For. Serv., Gen. Tech Rep. RM-142.

Ehrlich, P.R., D.S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder's handbook:a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Shuster, Inc., New York. xxx + 785 pp.

Johnsgard, P. 1988. North American owls:biology and natural history. Smithsonian Inst. Press. 336 pp.

Nicholls, T. H., and M. R. Fuller. 1987. Owl telemetry techniques. Pages 294-301 in Nero, R. W., et al., eds. Biology and conservation of northern forest owls. USDA Forest Service, Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-142.

Palmer, R. S., editor. 1988. Handbook of North American birds. Vol. 4. [Diurnal raptors, part 1]. Yale University Press, New Haven. vii + 433 pp.

Smith, D. G. 1987. Owl census techniques. Pages 304-307 in Nero, R. W., et al., eds. Biology and conservation of northern forest owls. USDA Forest Service, Gen. Tech. Rep. RM- 142.

Dickerman, R.W. 1991. On the validity of BUBO VIRGINIANUS OCCIDENTALIS Stone. Auk 108:964-965.

Voous, K. H., and A. Cameron. 1989. Owls of the Northern Hemisphere. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 320 pp.

Wolfe A, de la Torre J. 1990. Owls their life and behavior. New York: Crown Publishers. 214 p.

Morrell, T. E., R. H. Yahner, and W. L. Harkness. 1991. Factors affecting detection of great horned owls by using broadcast vocalizations. Wildl. Soc. Bull. 19:481-488.

Rusch, D. H., et al. 1972. Response of great horned owl populations to changing prey densities. J. Wildl. Manage. 36:282-296.

10 March 2005
 
This data was compiled and/or developed by the North Carolina GAP Analysis Project.

For more information please contact them at:
NC-GAP Analysis Project
Dept. of Zoology, NCSU
Campus Box 7617
Raleigh, NC 27695-7617
(919) 513-2853
www.basic.ncsu.edu/ncgap