Great Horned Owl Size – How Big is a Great Horned Owl?

The great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) is one of the biggest owl species of North America—second only to snowy owl. It is slightly smaller than the red-tailed hawk. Adult owls can reach the overall length of 63 cm with females moderately bigger than the males. Compared to an adult goose, great horned owls are smaller but they are certainly bigger than a crow. Let us dig deeper into the great horned owl size.

Great Horned Owl Size – How Big is a Great Horned Owl?

great horned owl size

Size and Weight

Found throughout the North and South America, the great horned owl measures around 18.1-24.8 in (46-63 cm). They have a wingspan of about 39.8-57.1 in (101-145 cm) averaging 122 cm (48 in).

READ [Great Horned Owl Weight]

Females are only slightly smaller than males. Males weigh up to 3.545 lb while females averaging 2.698 lb. Great horned owls are the second heaviest owls in North America. The great horned owl is a close relative of a snowy owl but great horned and snowy owls do not appear to share any physical features. They look way different from each other.

Wing Chord, Tail and Wing Span

The mean length of the wing chord is about 297–400 mm (11.7–15.7 in). The surface-to-area volume of an owl’s wing is comparatively smaller. The wingspan probably doesn’t reconcile with the overall physiology of the owl—perhaps one thought that it could have been little bigger.

READ [Great Horned Owl Feathers]

Like most other owls, the great horned owl has a pretty short tail measuring around 175 to 252 mm (6.9 to 9.9 in).

Legs, Claws, and Talons

The hoot owl does seem to possess one of the most powerful legs and talons. They have the biggest foot span in comparison to that of long-eared owls or even barn owl. In fact, the great horned owl’s foot span is even greater than the biggest owl species—great grey owl. The foot span of a great horned owl measures up to 20 cm (7.9 in) while the great grey owl has 18 cm (7.1 in) long foot span.

Thanks to their powerful legs and talons great horned owls are able to exert 300 PSI of crushing power—almost making it possible for the prey to escape. The amazing crushing power has lately caught the attention of many researchers in that they believe that it can be compared with the talon’s force of a golden eagle.

Bill and Ears

The great horned owl’s bill isn’t only long, it’s inflexible too. The mean length of the bill is about 3.3–5.2 cm (1.3–2.0 in).

Compared to Eurasian eagle owl, the great horned owl’s ears are smaller. They aren’t visible for the ear openings are hidden underneath its feathers. The size of owl’s ears is 2.3 cm (0.91 in).

Eyes’ Size

Great horned owls have got the biggest eyes of all terrestrial vertebrates. Their eyes are slightly smaller than ours. The bigger eyes obviously means wider field of binocular vision at night. However big its eyes may be, the great horned owl must turn its head to take a look at its prey.

Great Horned Owl Size – How Big is a Great Horned Owl – Video


Webster, J. D. and R. T. Orr. 1958. Variation in the Great Horned Owls of Middle America. Auk 75:134-142.

König, Claus; Weick, Friedhelm (2008). Owls of the World (2nd ed.). London: Christopher Helm. ISBN 9781408108840.

CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses by John B. Dunning Jr. (Editor). CRC Press (1992), ISBN 978-0-8493-4258-5.

Hall, M. I., & Heesy, C. P. (2011). Eye size, flight speed and Leuckart’s Law in birds. Journal of zoology, 283(4), 291-297.

Ridgway, R. 1914. Birds of North and Middle America. Bulletin of the U.S. National Museum, No. 50. Pt. 6.

Marti, C. D. (1974). Feeding ecology of four sympatric owls. Condor, 45-61.

Great horned owls have lately caught my attention partly by their outstanding physical features and nesting behavior, but mostly due to the range of sounds they utter on a moonlit night. It was the hooting sound of a great horned owl that inspired me.