College of Veterinary Medicine |

Healthy Animals, Healthy People, Healthy Planet


Toby is a female Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus).  She came to the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital in 2006 from the greater Pullman area.  She was diagnosed with head trauma which was thought to be caused by getting hit by a car.  She doesn’t act like a normal Great Horned Owl should, which would include aggression and defensiveness towards people.  Some of her reactions are delayed giving the impression of at least some brain damage.  However, most would agree that she is smarter than she appears to be.  She also cannot move one of her ear tufts giving her a lop-sided look.
Great-horned Owls are named for the feathers on the top of their heads which resemble horns at a distance.  They have large bodies with brown and black feathering.  Their facial disks are not as round as in other owl species and are a tan or buff color.  They are identifiable by their prominent white bib on the upper chest, and their large, yellow eyes. Great-horned Owls are one of the largest and most powerful owls in North America weighing up to 4 pounds.  They can take prey up to 2 – 3 times their own weight.  
Over 250 different birds and animals have been identified as prey, including porcupines, skunks, snakes, owls and other birds, rodents, and fish.  Great-horned Owls have very powerful feet and can exert 400 pounds of pressure per square inch!  That’s 4 times the strength of the adult human jaw!
Great-horned Owls are the most widespread of our owls, occurring throughout North America.  They utilize a variety of habitats, and have adapted well to living around humans.  Males and females can be differentiated by their calls during mating season; the males have a 3-note call while the female's call contains 5 notes and is higher pitched.

Washington State University