Who came to us in 2012 as a young chick. He was found on the ground by someone and taken immediately to a local rehabilitator. Unfortunately, Who’s right eye was damaged, and upon inspection by a veterinarian he was determined to be completely blind in that eye. We don’t know how that damage occurred, however it could have been the result of an attack by a predator, or even a squabble with siblings in the nest over food. Luckily for Who, he now has a good home with us at The Raptor Institute where he is able to go out on a regular basis and educate the public. He is a favorite at our owl pellet dissection workshops. Who was given his educational name because of the classic “who” hooting sound that these owls are known for.


Bubo virginianus
The Great Horned Owl is the largest owl found in San Diego County. They are found throughout all of the Americas, ranging from Alaska and Canada all the way to the tip of South America.


Great Horned Owls are characterized by their grayish, brown barred plumage and distinctive ear tufts. Their yellow eyes are quite large and stand out in their face. If seen in flight they appear almost white underneath with only some brown mottling. Like all owls they have a facial disc, however it is less defined than other owls as the Great Horned Owl relies more on sight than hearing to locate its prey.


Great Horned Owls are our classic hooting owl. They make that deep, resonant hooting sound that we think of when we think of what an owl should sound like. This call is most commonly heard in the winter and spring as a way for Great Horned Owls to announce their territories and attract and communicate with their mate.


Great Horned Owls are found in so many different habitats across their range that it is hard to define a specific type of habitat that they prefer. They can be found in urban/suburban areas, open grasslands, deserts, mountain forests, and everywhere in between. Their only requirements for suitable habitat are availability of nest sites, and an abundant food source.


Great Horned Owls will eat a variety of different animals ranging from as small as insects to as large as jack rabbits and geese. They commonly eat small mammals such as rabbits and squirrels, as well as birds such as ducks and herons. They are also known to eat skunks, an animal that is not eaten by anything else owing to their noxious odor. However lacking a sense of smell, Great Horned Owls will commonly attack and consume this otherwise smelly animal.


Great Horned Owls do not build their own nests. They will commandeer nests built by Red-Tailed Hawks and Common Ravens as well as using natural sites such as the decayed crown of a dead tree. Great Horned Owls are among the earliest nesting of birds, often starting courtship and egg laying as early as December.

Population Status

As a population, Great Horned Owls are stable across their range. They suffer a high mortality rate in their first year from natural causes such as starvation and predation. They are also susceptible to car strikes, electrocution, and other man made hazards

Fun Facts

Great Horned Owls are closely related to their much larger cousin the Eurasian Eagle Owl that is found throughout Europe and Asia. People quite often see the Eurasian Eagle Owl on TV and in movies and mistake it for our American counterpart the Great Horned Owl.