To aid in planning to survey my block, particularly for nocturnal visits, aerial photos are a big help. Great horned owls are quite generalist when it comes to habitat. I’ve seen them in urban areas, perched on buildings in spaces that had nearby big trees, and on light posts on the edge of a parking lot. They also nest in nest boxes on tall buildings, and in urban green spaces. The only nest I’ve personally seen was in an oak on a small savanna on campus, which is fitting with the Birds of North America account that they prefer oak and elm in Wisconsin.
Because of their readiness to colonize human-dominated habitats, they have expanded their range and have gotten into areas where they weren’t before, sometimes at the expense of other species. A friend in the birding community actually told me that they’ve been removed in areas within my block to protect a tern colony, so it will be interesting to try to find out what their current distribution is in the area. It also brings up a bit of an ethical dilemma for me: it’s unpleasant to think about “predator control” for native birds, but I also see how we have allowed great horned owls to take hold in areas they may otherwise not exist in such density. How would I feel if I reported a great horned owl, and it was killed because of it?