long-eared Owl vs Great Horned Owl: What Are The Differences? 

long eared owl vs great horned owl

Long-eared Owls and Great Horned Owl are the same species of birds. But there are some differences between Long-eared owls and Great horned owls. When you see them suddenly, you can not identify the differences. If you want to differ from each other, you have to know the key differences between them. 

We discovered some differences and similarities between these owls. By comparing the differences, you can easily identify them. 

Comparing Between Long-eared Owl Vs Great Horned Owl 

The Long-eared Owl is smaller than the Great Horned Owl and their size measurement: The long-eared Owl size is around 35 to 39 inches and the Great Horned Owl size is around 39 to 57 inches. 

Both the Long-eared Owl and the Great Horned Owl exhibit captivating eyes, but they differ in size and color. The long-eared Owl eyes are orange-yellow and the Great Horned Owl has yellow eyes.  

In the below table, we shared seven key differences so that you can compare them al glances and identify them easily. 

FeatureLong-eared Owl (Asio otus)Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
SizeMedium-sized (35-39 inches)Large (39-57 inches)
Ear TuftsProminent ear tuftsProminent ear tufts
ColorationBrown, buff, and white plumageMottled brown, gray, and reddish hues
HabitatWoodlands, coniferous forestsDiverse habitats including forests, deserts, and urban areas
DietSmall mammals, birds, and insectsRodents, birds, and sometimes other owls
VoiceHooting and high-pitched callsDeep hoots and screeches
Geographic RangeWidespread but more northernWidespread and found throughout North and South America

Differences Between Long-eared Owls Vs Great Horned Owls

Long Eared owl
Long Eared owl


Long-eared Owls display intricate patterns of browns and buffs across their feathers. The streaks of white create a subtle but effective camouflage amidst the foliage of woodlands. This cryptic coloration aids in their roosting and hunting habits within dense vegetation. 

On the other hand, Great Horned Owls display brown and gray tones, often with hints of red. They are a testament to the evolutionary adaptations that help these owls thrive in their respective habitats.


Long-eared Owls: Long-eared Owls, as their name suggests, are characterized by prominent ear tufts, which are actually feathers and not ears. These tufts give them a horned appearance, contributing to their mysterious and captivating look. Their medium-sized frame, ranging from 35 to 39 inches in wingspan.

Great Horned Owls: Great Horned Owls, being one of the largest owl species, feature impressive ear tufts that contribute to their formidable presence. With a wingspan ranging from 39 to 57 inches, they are significantly larger than Long-eared Owls. Their size, coupled with piercing yellow eyes, accentuates their powerful and predatory nature. 

Hunting Style and Diet

Long-eared Owls primarily eat small animals such as mice, voles, and shrews. On the other hand, The Great Horned Owls eat includes mammals like rabbits, squirrels, and rodents. Both eat some common animals like mice. Their hunting style little bit different.

They often perch in trees or dense vegetation, waiting patiently for prey to come within striking distance. Their flight is silent, allowing them to approach unsuspecting prey without detection.

Similarity between Long-eared owl and Great Horned Owl 

Similarity between Long-eared owl and Great Horned Owl 
Great Horned Owls

Despite their differences, Long-eared Owls and Great Horned Owls share several similarities:

Nocturnal Behavior: Both species are nocturnal, meaning they are most active during the night. This adaptation allows them to hunt in low light conditions, utilizing their excellent night vision and silent flight.

Predatory Nature: Both Long-eared Owls and Great Horned Owls are skilled predators. They have sharp talons and beaks, adapted for capturing and consuming a variety of prey.

Excellent Hearing: Both owls have exceptional hearing abilities. While the “ear” tufts on Long-eared Owls are not ears but feathers, they do enhance their silhouette, and both species use their keen sense of hearing to locate prey in the dark.

Adaptability: Both species exhibit a degree of adaptability to different environments. Long-eared Owls can be found in various wooded habitats, while Great Horned Owls are highly adaptable, thriving in environments ranging from forests and deserts to urban areas.

Parental Care: In terms of breeding, both Long-eared Owls and Great Horned Owls are attentive parents. They invest time and effort in raising their offspring, providing protection and food until the young owls are ready to fend for themselves.


How rare is a long-eared owl?

Long-eared owls are not considered extremely rare. They are often elusive and have a cryptic nature, making them challenging to spot. Their populations can vary, and they are more prevalent in specific regions and habitats.

What is the meaning of a long-eared owl?

Symbolically, the long-eared owl is often associated with wisdom, mystery, and intuition. In various cultures, owls, in general, are considered symbols of knowledge and insight. The distinctive appearance of the long-eared owl, with its “ear” tufts, adds to its enigmatic presence, reinforcing the connection to ancient symbols of wisdom.

How powerful is a great horned owl?

The great horned owl is a powerful and formidable predator. Known for its strength and versatility, it has strong talons and a powerful beak, allowing it to capture and consume a wide range of prey. 

Is it rare to see a great horned owl?

Great Horned Owls are not considered rare. They are among the most widespread owl species in North America. However, despite their commonality, spotting them in the wild can still be a somewhat uncommon occurrence due to their nocturnal habits and well-camouflaged plumage. 

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