GREAT GRAY OWL

Strix nebulosa

TOP 5 ID TIPS: GREAT GRAY OWLS

  • Very large bird

  • Dark grey, light grey, and brown pattern

  • Broad, flat, and very defined facial discs

  • Yellow eyes

  • Usually very quiet, silent when flying

© Kurt Lindsay

GREAT GRAY OWL FACTS:

A large, grayish-brown owl with a big, round head

Males: greyish-brown with grayish mottling and barring; face is light gray with several dark rings on the facial disks; bright yellow eyes and beak

Females: similar to male

Young: more gray; fades to brown with age

OTHER NAMES:

 

Dark Wood Owl, Lapland Owl, Striped Owl, Lapp Striped Owl


FAMILY:

 

Strigidae


CLOSEST RELATIVE:

 

Ural Owl, Barred Owl

GREAT GRAY OWL SIZE:

Height: Males 61-84 cm (24.0-33.0 in), Females 61-84 cm (24.0-33.0 in)

Weight: Males 890g (2.0 lb), Females 1267g (2.8 lb)

Wingspan Both: 137-153 cm (53.9-60.2 in)

GREAT GRAY OWL RANGE:

A northern owl; ranges throughout interior Alaska, Canada, northern U.S. Rockies, and a few scattered locations further south

 

GREAT GRAY OWL HABITAT:

 

Dense boreal and coniferous forests, often adjoining open areas like bogs, muskegs, or meadows

GREAT GRAY OWL DIET:

Small mammals such as voles and mice; shrews; rarely birds

GREAT GRAY OWL VOICE:

Deep, booming hoots

Males: during breeding, a series of evenly spaced low pitched “hoo”s; to contact other owls or defend territory, often will give a soft, double hoot

Females: higher pitched than males

GREAT GRAY OWL NESTING:

Nest Site: abandoned nests of other raptors, broken tops of snags, or artificial nest platforms

Eggs: 2-9, depending on availability of food; usually 3-5, hatching asynchronously

Incubation: 28-36 days

GREAT GRAY OWL HUNTING HABITS:

Usually hunts from a perch where it attentively listens and watches for prey

GREAT GRAY OWL CONSERVATION STATUS: 

Not globally threatened, but sensitive in U.S. and vulnerable in Canada.

© Kurt Lindsay

© Kurt Lindsay

© Kurt Lindsay 

GREAT GRAY OWL DISTRIBUTION IN NORTH AMERICA

© Kurt Lindsay 

great gray owl, great gray owl distribution, great gray owl migration

Maps provided by The Birds of North America Online and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Great Gray Owl - Denver Holt
00:00

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: 

Small creatures of the North beware; the Great Gray Owl is on the hunt! From atop its perch, this enormous owl- the largest in North America- is waiting…waiting for the chance to strike. Cocking its head as it listens for the tunneling of rodents beneath deep snow, the Great Gray Owl, with its incredible hearing, can detect prey over 100 meters away through snow as deep as 45 centimeters. When prey is heard, the Great Gray will leave its perch in one fast swoop, diving down through even the heaviest of snow to find a meal. It will most likely resurface with a shrew or vole grasped in its talons. Great Gray Owls also hunt larger prey like Snowshoe Hares, and has even been known to kill birds as large as the Sharp-shinned Hawk. Watch out northern critters; there’s no hiding from the Great Gray hunting machine!