Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) - HBW 5, p. 185

French: Grand-duc d’Amérique German: Virginiauhu Spanish: Búho Americano

Taxonomy: Strix virginiana J. F. Gmelin, 1788, Virginia.
Has sometimes been considered to belong to the B. bubo superspecies. Formerly included B. magellanicus as a race, but DNA, voice and morphology found to differ. Numerous geographical races named, many poorly differentiated, or apparently result of individual variation, or due to wandering birds from other parts of range: thus, forms described from coastal W Alaska (algistus), C Canada (scalariventris), Venezuela (scotinus), E Colombia (elutus), C Colombia (colombianus) and E Brazil (deserti) considered not acceptable; also, name occid.. View all taxonomy...

Taxonomy: Strix virginiana J. F. Gmelin, 1788, Virginia.
Has sometimes been considered to belong to the B. bubo superspecies. Formerly included B. magellanicus as a race, but DNA, voice and morphology found to differ. Numerous geographical races named, many poorly differentiated, or apparently result of individual variation, or due to wandering birds from other parts of range: thus, forms described from coastal W Alaska (algistus), C Canada (scalariventris), Venezuela (scotinus), E Colombia (elutus), C Colombia (colombianus) and E Brazil (deserti) considered not acceptable; also, name occidentalis used for birds from Rocky Mts of WC Canada to WC USA, but now synonymized with subarcticus; older name wapacuthu formerly applied to populations of W & C Canada and N USA (limits uncertain), but validity questioned; in addition, N populations lagophonus and heterocnemis possibly not separable from saturatus, perhaps better merged with latter; boundaries of races often obscure, and problem further complicated by birds of intermediate appearance; races pacificus and pallescens intergrade in California. Pending further study, twelve races tentatively recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution:

  • lagophonus (Oberholser, 1904) - Alaska, S in mountains to NE Oregon and NW Montana; in winter S to Texas.
  • saturatus Ridgway, 1877 - coast from SE Alaska to N California.
  • pacificus Cassin, 1854 - coast of California (except N) S to NW Baja California.

     See all 12 subspecies
  • lagophonus (Oberholser, 1904) - Alaska, S in mountains to NE Oregon and NW Montana; in winter S to Texas.
  • saturatus Ridgway, 1877 - coast from SE Alaska to N California.
  • pacificus Cassin, 1854 - coast of California (except N) S to NW Baja California.
  • elachistus Brewster, 1902 - S Baja California.
  • subarcticus Hoy, 1853 - Mackenzie and NW British Columbia E to Hudson Bay, S at least to Wyoming and North Dakota; possibly this race, or intermediates between it and pallescens and/or lagophonus, or unnamed race, S to Arizona, New Mexico and SW Texas (Guadalupe Mts).
  • pallescens Stone, 1897 - C California (San Joaquin Valley) and deserts of SE California E to W Kansas, S to Mexico (S to Guerrero, W Veracruz).
  • heterocnemis (Oberholser, 1904) - NE Canada S to Great Lakes region.
  • virginianus (J. F. Gmelin, 1788) - Minnesota E to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward I, S through E Kansas and E Texas to Florida.
  • mayensis Nelson, 1901 - Yucatán Peninsula.
  • mesembrinus (Oberholser, 1904) - from Isthmus of Tehuantepec to W Panama.
  • nigrescens Berlepsch, 1884 - Andes from Colombia to NW Peru.
  • nacurutu (Vieillot, 1817) - lowlands from E Colombia to the Guianas; also Bolivia across to NE Brazil, S to EC Argentina (Buenos Aires).