Bird Species of the World's Boreal Forests


Strix nebulosa
Great Grey Owl


Distinguishing Features - Length: 61 - 84 cm; wingspan up to 152 cm; weight 790 - 1454 g average; females slightly larger than males. Colouration: dark grey overall interspersed with bars and flecks of light grey and white. When perched, they appear very bulky because of their dense, fluffy plumage, long wings extending past the body, a relatively long tail, and a large head. The size of the head, and the prominent facial disk make the yellow eyes appear small. A noticeable white "moustache" strip is under the facial disk, broken by a black "bow-tie". The feet are heavily feathered and remain hidden from view.

Great Grey Owl Habitat

Great Gray Owls are found from Alaska across Canada, down the Northern Rocky Mountains, and northern Minnesota in the U.S. Mid-West. They are also found in northern Europe, Scandinavia and Asia.

These owls inhabit a range of forested habitats. In far north America, they frequent stunted coniferous forests along the edge of the Arctic treeline, through spruce and tamarack muskeg forests further south. Nesting habitat usually includes aspens within pure stands of conifers. Most foraging is done in open areas such as swamps, bogs, and forest clearings where there are scattered trees and shrubs that can be used as perches.

Sub-species are:

Strix nebulosa nebulosa - occurs only in North America.
Strix nebulosa lapponica - Northern Eurasia; often lighter and less grey than its American counterpart.


Primarily small rodents - voles, rats, mice, shrews, squirrels, rabbits, pocket gophers, chipmunks, moles, and weasels; also birds - crows, small hawks, robin, ducks and grouse; occasionally frogs, toads, snakes, and insects.


The Great Gray Owl has a very distinctive call which is a soft, low-pitched hoot "whooo-ooo-ooo-ooo". It is not an accomplished flier and does not often move more than short distances between perches and seldom glides. They fly close to the ground, except when flying to a nest.

These owls cool off by roosting in dense cover. When hot, a Great Gray Owl will pant and droop its wings to expose an unfeathered area under the wing.

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