Great Horned Owl
(Bubo virginianus)


Picture of bird
© Dan Busby
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

This nocturnal predator ranges through all urban and rural wooded areas of Canada, but prefers open woodland and treed areas in agricultural lands. Though not ideal surveys for this species, results from the Breeding Bird Survey and the Christmas Bird Count suggest that the Canadian population of the Great Horned Owl has experienced a decrease relative to 1970. Historically, Great Horned Owls were commonly shot due to concerns over poultry predation. Despite being protected, some illegal shooting persists (Artuso et al. 2014).


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Secure2015 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaModerate DecreaseHighBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada500,000 - 1,000,000 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence


Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

Conservation and management

The species adapts to habitat change, as long as nest sites remain available. It appears to be relatively tolerant of disturbances at nest sites (Artuso et al. 2014). Nest sites are generally re-used nests of other stick nest builders (Artuso et al. 2014). Although very flexible in habitat choice, the Great Horned Owl prefers open woodlands and agricultural habitats (Artuso et al. 2014). Intensification of agricultural activities and subsequent reduction in availability of small mammalian prey may be related to the population decreases in some areas such as southern Ontario (Sleep 2007).


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type