Great Gray Owl
A Great Gray Owl is a fun bird to see while bird watching. Below are some tips to help you identify Great Gray Owls. We have also put together a list of fun Great Gray Owl t-shirts, Great Gray Owl bird patches, bird houses, bird feeders, binoculars, stickers and other fun bird watching items.
About the Great Gray Owl
They are large night birds that are found in the high mountains of the north and the northern woodlands. They have very thick fluffy plumage that makes them seem big. These owls are smaller than they look and hunt small animals such as rodents. They thrive in the northern hemisphere from North America, Alaska to northern Asia. Some of their distinctive features include:
Description and Identification
Adult Great Gray Owls have a gray face and yellow eyes on a large rounded head. Their eyes
have wide dark circles around them. Even with the absence of ear tufts, these owls have the
largest facial proportions in comparison to other raptors. Their lower body is dark with dark streaks,
and their upper body is gray and pale. In spite of being the longest raptors in the world, measuring
up to 2 feet in length, these birds weigh only 1.28-4.19 pounds. This peculiar length to weight ratio
is because of the dense layers of plumage they possess. The dense layer of feathers actually
accounts for more size than the body does. It is assumed that this strange characteristic of Great
Gray Owls is a protective mechanism that exists to scare off potential predators. Great Gray
Owls communicate with each other through a sequence of deep, rhythmic whoos.
Great Gray Owl Color Pattern
They are primarily gray with white underparts coupled with gray wash and gray-brown upperparts with gray-white mottling. Their gray-brown circular facial disk sandwich the bright-yellow eyes. The bill is yellow and their legs are feathered in gray-white.
Great Gray Owl Size
Great gray owls are among the tallest owls with a long tail and broad wings. They are big headed and males tend to be smaller than females. It is larger than a great horned owl but dwarfed by a bald eagle.
The relative size of both sexes
- Length range: 24.0-33.1 in (61-84 cm)
- Weight: 24.7-60.0 oz (700-1700 g)
- Wingspan range: 53.9-60.2 in (137-153 cm)
Great Gray Owl Behavior
They are shy and secretive birds that avoid areas with people. Great gray owls quietly perch on forest edges and are rare to spot despite their size. They forage during the night and hours before dawn and dusk. They fly low watching and listening for small animals.
What Great Gray Owl Eat
Great Gray Owls mostly feed on small mammals such as mice, voles, mole, lemmings, and pocket
gophers. These birds do the majority of their hunting by night, listening closely from perches for
small mammals moving under the snow. Once they spot their prey, they fly over the snow and grab
the animals with their long talons.
They mostly feed on small mammals. In the north, they hunt for voles while in the west, they feed heavily on pocket gophers. Great gray owls can also feed on small birds, frogs, mice, and shrews.
Where Great Gray Owls Live
Great Gray Owls generally prefer to nest in regions with dense layers of deciduous or coniferous
forests which are close to open meadows. These owls nest in forests, and head to the open fields
when they need to hunt. These birds like to reside in northern regions where the climate is
generally cooler. Although Great Gray Owls seem built for colder climates, there are also a few
cases of these birds residing in climates that tend to exceed 100 °F in summers.
They spend much of their time in dense wet evergreen areas, particularly in Canada. In the United States, they are a common sight in pine forests near montane meadows. They prefer forest 2,500-2,700 ft. above sea level. During winter, they move downslope and occupy oak woodlands and evergreen forests.
Range and Migration
Great Gray Owls, the largest species of owls by length, are scattered across the Northern
Hemisphere. They are also found in the Eastern and Western Hemisphere, but not as commonly.
These birds are nonmigratory, although they may need to migrate when their native habitats
experience a scarcity of food. They usually migrate southwards, or to regions with lower elevations.
Great Gray Owl Lifecycle
The females lay 2-5 eggs and incubate them for 28-36 days. The incubating female is fed by the male. The female proceeds to brood the young ones for about 1-2 weeks. The young ones leave the nest after 3-4 weeks and fledge 1-2 weeks later. Their average lifespan is 13 years.
Great Gray Owl Nesting
Great Gray Owls usually do not build their own nests, instead, they use older abandoned nests of
other large birds. In some regions, these birds use man-made platforms as their nest sites. Males
feed females during courtship, and the pair preen each others’ feathers to display their affection. In
rare circumstances these birds might need to build their own nests, they do so in cavities in large
trees, or in trees with broken tops. The nest site is usually 10-50 inches off the ground. These birds
lay an average of 4 eggs, after which the incubation period lasts for 28-36 days. Females protect
the younglings for a few months, while the males hunt for their family. As soon as the younglings
begin to fly, the female withdraws from her responsibilities allowing the male to feed them until they
can hunt for themselves.
Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes
At Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.
Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Great Gray Owls
The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing Great Gray Owls are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.
Great Gray Owl T-shirts
If you love the Great Gray Owl you should purchase a Bird Watching Academy & Camp T-shirt. To help support bird conservation we donate 10 percent to bird conservation activities.
Great Gray Owl Iron On Patches
Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron on patches. Our bird watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen an identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.
The Great Gray Owl is a great iron on patch to start your collection with. The patches are durable and can be sewn on or ironed on to just about anything.
Great Gray Owl Stickers
Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Great Gray Owl. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.
Bird Feeders For Great Gray Owl
There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.
Best Bird Houses for Great Gray Owl
There are many types of bird houses. Building a bird house is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 bird houses have become our favorites. Getting a bird house for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these bird houses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.