Among many tribes, including Lakota, the Great Horned Owl and the Screech Owl were believed to be the most dangerous owls. Both of these owls,
have “horns” or plumicorns (feather tufts) on the top of their heads. In some tribal cultures, horns are believed to be a sign of powerfulness, which may explain why “horned” owls are more readily feared.
Historically, some American Indians even believed that these owls might not be real birds at all, but are actually always shape-shifters. In other tribes, they were believed to be the restless spirits of the dead.
Many tribes traditionally link night with death and the underworld. Though a Great Horned Owl’s preferred hunting time is dusk and dawn, both Great Horned and Screech Owls may be active at night.
Their reputation is further enhanced by fringed wings (fluting) that cause these owls to have virtually silent flight, and their varied sounds such as eerie screeches, screams, wails, barks, and hoots.