Great Horned Owl Vs Long Eared Owl

Last Updated on April 22, 2023 by naime

Great horned owls and long eared owls are two of the most iconic and recognizable species of owl found in North America. These nocturnal birds of prey have captured the imaginations of people for centuries, with their striking appearance and mysterious behavior. While they may share some similarities, there are also several key differences between these two fascinating creatures that make them unique.

The great horned owl, known for its large size and distinctive ear tufts, is one of the most powerful predators in the avian world. With a wingspan of up to five feet and razor-sharp talons, this bird is capable of taking down prey much larger than itself, including rabbits, skunks, and even other birds of prey. In contrast, the long eared owl is smaller and more slender in build, with longer feathers on its head that resemble "ears". Despite its diminutive stature, however, this species is no less impressive as a hunter – it has been known to catch small mammals such as mice and voles with incredible speed and precision. Both these magnificent birds play important roles in their respective ecosystems, but how do they measure up against each other? Let’s take a closer look at the great horned owl vs long eared owl showdown.

Physical Characteristics Of The Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned Owl is one of the largest and most recognizable owl species in North America. With a height that ranges from 18 to 25 inches, they are known for their distinct facial features. Their large eyes take up almost two-thirds of their skull’s length, which allows them to see perfectly even in low-light conditions.

The Great Horned Owl also has distinctive ear tufts on top of its head, which have nothing to do with hearing but rather help it blend into the environment while hunting prey. The coloration of their feathers varies depending on geography and climate, ranging from shades of brown to gray and black. They have powerful talons that can exert a force of about 500 pounds per square inch!

Their wingspan is impressive as well; it can reach up to five feet wide! This feature helps them gain altitude quickly when taking off or swooping down onto prey. Additionally, the Great Horned Owl has an incredible sense of hearing due to its asymmetrical ears’ placement, which allow them to pinpoint sound accurately.

In summary, the physical characteristics of the Great Horned Owl make it stand out among other owls. Its large size, unique facial features, powerful talons, strong wingspan, and excellent hearing all contribute to making this bird a formidable predator in the wild.

Physical Characteristics Of The Long Eared Owl

As we conclude our discussion on the physical characteristics of great horned owls, let us now shift our focus to their close relative – the long eared owl. Did you know that while both species have similar body lengths, long eared owls actually weigh less than half of what a great horned owl weighs? That’s right, with an average weight of only 10 ounces, these feathered creatures are truly unique in their own way.

Let’s dive deeper into some interesting information about the long eared owl:

  • Unlike their larger counterparts, they prefer to nest in dense coniferous forests.
  • Their ear tufts aren’t actually ears at all! They’re just decorative feathers used for communication and camouflaging purposes.
  • Long eared owls have asymmetrical ear placements on their head which allows them to locate prey based solely on sound.
  • They can be identified by their bright yellow eyes and rusty brown facial disc.
  • These nocturnal hunters feed primarily on small mammals such as mice and voles.

As an avian wildlife expert, I must say that observing these majestic birds in their natural habitat is truly a sight to behold. With their sharp talons and keen senses, it’s no wonder why they’ve become highly adapted predators over time. While not as well-known or widely-studied as great horned owls, the long eared owl holds its own special place in the animal kingdom.

It’s important to note that despite being fascinating creatures, both great horned owls and long eared owls face various threats including habitat loss and human interference. As advocates for nature preservation and conservation efforts, it is crucial that we continue to educate ourselves and others about the importance of protecting these magnificent birds so future generations may also enjoy their beauty.

Hunting Techniques Of The Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned Owl is a formidable predator and one of the most efficient hunters in the animal kingdom. They are known for their exceptional hunting skills, which enable them to capture prey that other birds might find difficult.

These owls have large eyes that allow them to see in the dark and detect even the slightest movement from their prey. Their powerful talons are also important tools for hunting, as they help grip onto prey with ease.

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The Great Horned Owl hunts by perching on a high point such as a tree branch or fence post and scanning its surroundings for potential prey. Once it spots something, it swoops down silently and swiftly on its target. Its wings make no noise allowing it to catch its prey unaware.

This owl’s diet consists mostly of rodents like mice, rats, voles, shrews, rabbits etc., but they can also hunt larger animals like skunks, raccoons, and even other birds if necessary. Overall, these majestic creatures are some of nature’s most adept predators who rely on stealth and precision to survive in the wild.

Hunting Techniques Of The Long Eared Owl

The long eared owl is often underestimated in comparison to its formidable counterpart, the great horned owl. However, one theory suggests that the long eared owl’s hunting techniques are more efficient and precise than those of the great horned owl.

While this may seem hard to believe given the great horned owl’s reputation as a skilled hunter, it is important to consider the unique abilities of the long eared owl. With their feather tufts resembling ears, these owls have exceptional hearing capabilities which allow them to locate prey with pinpoint accuracy even in complete darkness.

Moreover, unlike other species of owls who rely solely on sight for hunting, the long eared owl utilizes both hearing and vision to detect and capture prey. This dual approach enables them to capture prey with greater efficiency and speed.

In addition, they employ a stealthy approach when stalking their prey instead of relying on brute force like some larger predators. By silently gliding through trees or along low branches before pouncing on unsuspecting prey below, they are able to catch small mammals such as mice and voles without alerting nearby animals.

Overall, while many may overlook the prowess of the long eared owl due to its smaller size compared to other owls, its unique hunting techniques make it an impressive predator in its own right.

Habitat And Range Of Both Species

Great horned owls and long-eared owls are two of the most common owl species found in North America. These birds have unique habits, behaviors, and characteristics that set them apart from one another. One such difference lies in their habitat and range.

Great horned owls prefer to live in a variety of habitats including forests, deserts, wetlands, grasslands, and even urban areas. They can be found throughout North America except for some parts of Alaska and northern Canada. Great horned owls are also known for their adaptability as they are able to thrive in different altitudes ranging from sea level up to 13,000 feet.

On the other hand, long-eared owls inhabit dense coniferous forests with thick understories where they can remain hidden during daylight hours. Their range is limited compared to the great horned owl as they only breed in remote boreal forests of Alaska and Canada but migrate southwards to wintering grounds which include much of the United States.

Though both species may overlap in certain regions or habitats, their preferences vary greatly according to climate conditions and ecosystem requirements. For instance, great horned owls tend to avoid colder climates while long-eared owls require an abundance of prey items like rodents and small mammals within their preferred forest homes.

Overall, understanding these differences is crucial when it comes to protecting each species’ respective habitats. Conservation efforts must take into account not only the needs of individual animals but also how those needs interact with the larger environment around them so that we can ensure healthy populations for generations to come.

Conclusion: Which Species Comes Out On Top?

To sum it up, both the great horned owl and long-eared owl are formidable predators in their own right. Each species has adapted to its environment with unique physical characteristics and hunting strategies.

However, if I had to choose a winner between these two impressive birds of prey, I would have to give the nod to the great horned owl. While the long-eared owl may be more elusive and specialized in certain aspects of hunting, the great horned owl is simply more versatile and adaptable overall.

With its powerful talons, sharp beak, excellent hearing, and keen eyesight, the great horned owl can take down prey that other raptors wouldn’t even attempt. It’s also able to thrive in a wider range of habitats than the long-eared owl, from forests and deserts to suburbs and cities.

Of course, in nature there are no clear-cut winners or losers – each species plays a vital role in maintaining ecological balance. Both the great horned owl and long-eared owl are fascinating creatures that deserve our respect and admiration. By learning more about them and their behaviors, we can deepen our appreciation for all birds of prey and help protect their natural habitats for generations to come.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Great Horned Owls And Long Eared Owls Differ In Their Vocalizations?

When it comes to vocalizations, great horned owls and long eared owls have distinct differences. Great horned owls are known for their deep and resonant hooting calls, which can be heard up to two miles away. They also produce a variety of other sounds such as screeches, barks, and hisses. On the other hand, long-eared owls have more subtle vocalizations, consisting mainly of soft hoots and coos that are often difficult to hear unless you’re close by. Despite these differences in vocalization styles, both species use their calls to communicate with others of their kind and stake out territories during breeding season.

What Is The Average Lifespan Of Both Species In The Wild?

The average lifespan of both the great horned owl and long eared owl in the wild is around 10-14 years. However, there have been cases where these birds have lived up to 20 years or more in captivity due to proper care and nutrition. Factors such as habitat loss, hunting by humans, and competition with other predators can affect their longevity in the wild. It’s important for us to continue monitoring and protecting these magnificent creatures so that they can thrive in their natural environments for generations to come.

How Do Great Horned Owls And Long Eared Owls Interact With Other Bird Species In Their Habitat?

Great horned owls and long eared owls are both apex predators in their respective habitats, and they have unique ways of interacting with other bird species. Great horned owls are known to be aggressive hunters and will prey on smaller birds if given the opportunity. They have been observed attacking crows, hawks, and even eagles. Long-eared owls, on the other hand, tend to avoid conflict with other bird species. They typically hunt at night when most other birds are asleep, which minimizes competition for food resources. However, they may occasionally take small songbirds as prey if no other options are available. Overall, while these two owl species share some similarities in how they interact with their environment, there are also significant differences that make them each unique and fascinating subjects for study.

Are There Any Major Threats To The Populations Of Either Species?

The populations of both the great horned owl and long eared owl are facing some major threats. These magnificent birds of prey, that once dominated their habitats with ease, are now struggling to survive due to loss of habitat, climate change and hunting. In fact, the situation is so dire that it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that we may soon lose these incredible creatures forever if immediate action isn’t taken to protect them. As avian wildlife experts, it’s our responsibility to raise awareness about these issues and work towards finding solutions before it’s too late.

What Is The Cultural Significance Of Great Horned Owls And Long Eared Owls In Different Societies Around The World?

Great horned owls and long eared owls are both highly regarded in many societies around the world. In some Native American cultures, great horned owls are seen as symbols of wisdom, protection, and strength. They are often associated with night time activities and hunting prowess. Long eared owls, on the other hand, have been revered for their unique appearance and distinctive calls in European folklore. They were believed to be messengers from the underworld or harbingers of death by some cultures. Despite these differences in cultural significance, both owl species play important roles in maintaining ecological balance within their respective habitats.


In conclusion, great horned owls and long eared owls have their own unique characteristics that make them fascinating creatures to study. It’s clear that these two species differ in their vocalizations, with the great horned owl having a deeper and more powerful hoot compared to the long eared owl’s softer call. Both species can live up to 20 years in the wild if they are able to avoid major threats like deforestation, hunting, or collisions with vehicles.

As an avian wildlife expert, I must stress the importance of protecting these magnificent birds for future generations to enjoy. As the adage goes, "we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children." Let us strive to create habitats where both great horned owls and long eared owls can thrive without fear of human interference. By doing so, we can ensure that these awe-inspiring predators will continue to enchant birdwatchers around the world for many years to come.

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