• Barn Owl
  • Barred Owl
  • Boreal Owl
  • Burrowing Owl
  • Eastern Screech Owl
    Eastern Screech
  • Elf Owl
  • Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
    Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
  • Flammulated Owl
  • Great Grey Owl
    Great Grey
  • Great Horned Owl
    Great Horned
  • Long Eared Owl
  • Northern Hawk Owl
    Northern Hawk
  • Northern Pygmy Owl
    Northern Pygmy
  • Northern Saw-whet Owl
    Northern Saw-whet
  • Short-eared Owl
  • Snowy Owl
  • Spotted Owl
  • Western Screech Owl
    Western Screech
  • Western Screech Owl
    Whiskered Screech Owl

GREAT GREY OWL (Strix nebulosa)

Great Grey OwlSmall 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!

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

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

    Habitat: dense boreal and coniferous forests, often adjoining open areas like bogs, muskegs, or meadows

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

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

Great Grey Owl Range Map

Great Grey Owl Range Map

Great Grey Owl Audio

Great Grey Owl Facts

Other Names: Dark Wood Owl, Lapland Owl, Striped Owl, Lapp Striped Owl
Family: Strigidae
Closest Relative: Ural Owl, Barred Owl

Conservation Status

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