Owls are unique birds. Although they are classified as raptors, owls are very different from many other birds of prey in their anatomy, feather structure, and hunting techniques. They are noted for their large head and large eyes which are fixed in the skull, making it necessary for them to rotate their heads in order to change their view. Their hearing is acute and in many species the ears, which are crescent-shaped slits beneath the facial feathers, are placed asymmetrically (unevenly) on the head in order to better pick up sound. Owls also have a distinctive facial disk which helps to direct sound towards the ears. The flight of an owl is almost noiseless due to tiny fringe-like structures found along the outer edge of each feather. This allows an owl to fly silently towards its prey without detection.
The Great Horned Owl is the largest owl found in our area, measuring between 18 and 25 inches in length with a wingspan of more than four feet. Females are usually larger than the males. The plumage is brownish with mixtures of black and buff with some white present, especially under the chin. The eyes are very large and bright yellow in coloration. Great Horned Owls are noted for their large ear tufts. These ear tufts are actually feather arrangements called plumicorns which do not aid in hearing and can be used to show expression. They can be extended or flattened, depending on the mood of the owl. The legs and feet of the Great Horned Owl are feathered with two toes extending forward and two toes extending backwards. They have extremely powerful feet tipped with long, needle-sharp talons.