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.
The Great Gray Owl is the bird emblem of the Canadian Province of Manitoba.
Least Concern (LC)
Species Number : 370.0
Alpha Code : GGOW
Common Name : Great Gray Owl
Longevity Record : 12yrs 9months
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