No, they are not ears. The feather tufts on a great horned owl's head make it easy to identify. Also, great horned owls have yellow eyes. Barred owls, another common Illinois owl, have dark eyes.
Great horned owl chicks peer out of their nest near Lake Springfield. Their parents took over an abandoned red-tailed hawk nest located in the wildlife sanctuary. Great horned owls don't make a nest, they take over nests left by other animals.
A few weeks later, branching great horned owl chicks venture out of the nest. People often find branching owls on the ground and assume they are hurt, when in fact, they are not! Birds leave the nest before they are able to fly, but the parents still feed them, whether they are in the nest or on the ground.
Great horned owls will eat almost anything. Its favorite food may be skunks!
A common, widespread owl.
Great horned owls in captivity may live to be 30 years old.
Great horned owls pair off to begin mating in early winter. By February, they are already nesting!
Great horned owls are powerful hunters and will defend their young. Stay well away from nests and branching birds.
Photos by Kanae Hirabayashi (top) and Chris Young.