Great grey owl (Strix nebulosa)

Great Grey Owl

Just along from the snow leopards with a host of other owls.

Fast facts

Status Least Concern

Size Head and body: 61-84cm. Wingspan: 137-153cm

Weight 700g-1.7kg

Gestation 30 days

Young 1-2

Life span Around 12 years in the wild, can live longer in captivity

What do I eat?

Great grey owls are carnivores, they will mostly feed on small mammals such as voles, mice, rabbits and squirrels; they have also been known to eat small birds.

The great grey owl will typically hunt during early morning or late afternoon. They will use their super-sensitive hearing to locate their prey, even if they are hiding under snow! These owls are able to glide down silently towards their prey due to their soft feathers, and catch them in their sharp talons.

Where do I live?

These animals are found in North America and Canada; but also known to be found across Eurasia, Scandinavia, east to north Mongolia and north-east China.

Great grey owls prefer habitats that have dense forests of pine and fir trees, and are close to meadows or open fields.


These animals are able to breed from 3 years old, and are known to stay with a mate for life (monogamous). Breeding season usually takes place during winter; great grey owls will use abandoned nests from other birds such as hawks and crows, as they will not usually build new nests.

The female will incubate the eggs until they hatch; the chicks have soft white downy feathers and will have opened their eyes after hatching. Both parents will help to feed the young, the chicks will start to leave the nest and climb around from 3-4 weeks and will have left (fledged) by 8 weeks; but will still be dependent on their parents until 4-5 months old.


Adult great grey owls are rarely preyed upon by other animals, however younger owls are known to be hunted by great horned owls, martens and wolverines.

To stay safe, these animals will rely on their colourations to blend in to their environment; they will also use excellent sense of hearing to alert them of danger nearby.


Although the great grey owl is classed as ‘least concern’, they face an uncertain future due to an increase in deforestation and destruction of their habitat. However one of the main threats to this species is loss of food and starvation, through an increase of chemicals used to poison rodents that are seen as a pest. Electrocution from power cables, shootings and road traffic accidents are also threats to this species.

The great grey owl is a protected species, with trade and export of this species being heavily monitored.

Did you know?

The great grey owl is one of the largest owls found in North America.

The abundance of food within the habitat of the great grey owl can have an effect on the number of eggs they lay.

Sometime after eating, owls will produce a ‘pellet’, this is the parts of their prey they cannot digest such as the bones, fur or feathers.

Wildfires in the great grey owl’s habitat can benefit them greatly, as they create tree stumps which they can use for nest sites, and it also can cause an increase in rodent populations.


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