Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa)

Great Gray Owl

The Great Gray Owl is found extensively across the middle of the Northern hemisphere, from Scandinavia across to Asia and throughout Canada & northern USA, down along the Northen Rocky Mountains to north Minnesota. They prefer to live in forested areas, hunting mainly in clearings, and adjacent meadows & bogs.

The name "nebulosa" comes from the Latin for misty or foggy.

The owls are predominantly diurnal, usually hunting in the early morning or late afternoon, but will also hunt at night or other daylight hours. They feed mainly on small rodents, with voles being the main prey, especially in the USA & Canada. Other prey are gophers, weasels, squirrels, rabbits, rats & mice, occassionally small birds & amphibians & reptiles will be taken. Their prefered method of hunting is 'still hunting' from a perch, occasionally they will hunt by flying a metre or two above the ground for short distances, they rarely glide while hunting.

The Great Gray Owl has a very distinctive large, strongly lined, facial disc, with bright yellow eyes. The facial disc aids the owl's keen hearing, most of the hunting is done mainly by sound. In snowy conditions, the owls hunt be sound alone, and are able to locate their prey in up to 12" of snow.

The Great Gray Owl is the largest owl in America by size, though not by weight (that honour goes to the Great Horned Owl). Despite its apparent large size, the majority of the bulk of the bird is feathers. This is an adaptation to the cold regions that it inhabits.

The American Ornithologists Union (AOU) reports the longevity record in the wild as nearly 13years, but a European ringing study lists a Great Gray Owl road casualty of 15 years old. In the wild, the main cause of death is starvation. Their natural enemies are Great Horned Owls, martens & wolverines.

Possibly due to its lack of contact with man, the Great Gray Owl is known to be a very bold bird. It will vigourously defend its nesting site, if disturbed, even to the extent of attacking humans & bears.

The Great Gray Owls nest mainly in abandoned nest of other birds, often made by crows or hawks. Usually, between 2 and 6 eggs are laid (on average 3, but sometimes up to 9) at 1 to 2 day intervals. The female does all of the incubation, which starts when the first egg is laid. The incubation period is from 4 to 6 weeks. The male provides all the food for the young, which is torn into smaller pieces by the female prior to feeding. The young leave the nest after 3 to 4 weeks and are fully fledged within about 8 weeks. The young stay near the nest and are cared for by the female for some time after leaving the nest.

Mythology & Folklore :

The Great Gray Owl is the bird emblem of the Canadian Province of Manitoba.

IUCN Red List Status :

Least Concern (LC)

AOU Data :

Species Number : 370.0
Alpha Code : GGOW
Common Name : Great Gray Owl
Longevity Record : 12yrs 9months

Also Called :

Great Gray Ghost
Phantom of the North
Cinerous Owl
Spectral Owl
Lapland Owl
Spruce Owl
Bearded Owl
Sooty Owl
Catalan Gamarús de Lapònia
Danish Laplandsugle
Dutch Laplanduil
Esperanto lapona strigo
Estonian Habekakk
Finnish Lapinpöllö
Chouette cendrée (Ash coloured owl)
Chouette lapone (Lapland Owl)
German Bartkauz
Hungarian Szakállas bagoly
Icelandic Lappugla
Italian Alloco di lapponia (Lapland Owl)
Lappish (Sami) Ránesskuolfi
Latvian Ziemeļpūce
Lithuanian Laplandinė Pelėda
Norwegian Lappugle
Polish Puszczyk mszarny
Portuguese Coruja-lapónica
Лапландская Неясыть (Laplandskaya Neyasyt)
Бородатая Неясыть (Borodataya Neyasyt)
Spanish Cárabo Lapón
Swedish Lappuggla
Inupiaq (Alaskan Eskimo) Naataq
Chinese wu lin xiao (Dark Forest Owl)
Japanese Karafuto fukuroo (Sakhalin Owl)

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