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Great Gray Owl
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Great Gray Owl

Facts about the Great Gray Owl

Family: Strigidae
Length: 61 to 84 cm
Wingspan: 134 to 158 cm
Weight: Males from 825 to 1,050 g / Females from 1,025 to 1,700 g
Record longevity: 13 years

Features of the Great Gray Owl

  • (Head) Round and hornless (without ear tufts), can turn as much as 270°.
  • (Hearing)  Very acute due mainly to its large facial disc.
  • (Eyes)  The eyes are yellow with a piercing look.
  • (Tail)  The tail is long.
  • (Beak)  The beak is down-curved. The black patch on the « chin » with white markings on either side, gives the effect of a mustache.  
  • (Plumage)  Feathers are thick, ash-grey mottled with brown spots.  


The Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa) is in fact the largest member of the Strigidae family in North America. This « gray ghost » is characteristically tame. It flies low to the ground and its flight is virtually noiseless.

The Great Gray Owl ranges in the northern coniferous belt across North America and Eurasia.  It occurs in most parts of Canada. It is the emblem bird of Manitoba. Evidence of nesting activity was first recorded in 1988 in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region of northwestern Québec. 


The Great Gray Owl lives mainly in boreal forests, marshes and wooded muskegs. Further south, it occurs in thick woodlands, open meadows and fields on the edge of woods.


The Great Gray Owl nests in an abandoned crow’s or hawk’s nest and makes little or no improvements to it.  Sometimes locates at the top of a tall tree stump.  The male feeds the female during the 28 to 30 day incubation period. 


The owlets (young owls) take their first flight when they are 4 to 6 weeks old.  Some young owls breed when they’re only a year old, but most don’t reach sexual maturity until 2 or 3 years of age.   

Well-equipped for hunting

The Great Gray Owl hunts mainly at night, in open fields and meadows with shrubbery. It frequently forages in daylight. Fence posts, bushes and low trees are used as lookouts. Its piercing eyes help locate prey from very far away.   

Its highly acute hearing helps it detect the sounds of small rodents scampering under the snow. It sometimes dives feet first and seizes them in its claws.


Its diet consists primarily of small rodents such as mice and voles. Its victims are swallowed whole. The indigestible bones and fur are regurgitated as pellets.

With or without tufts it’s still a Strigidae

The Latin root of Strigidae is striga which means « night bird ».  In Québec, where there are 10 species in the family Strigidae, the French word for an owl with ear tufts is « hibou », and the word for an owl without ear tufts is « chouette ».


Spring - Summer

Before choosing a nesting site, a pair will make sure there’s enough prey in the area to feed a family. Great Gray Owls have only one brood a year. 2 to 5 eggs are laid. They are white, smallish and more oval than other owls’ eggs. Great Gray Owls care for their young until the end of the summer. Both parents fiercely defend the nest from threatening intruders. They may use the same nest several years in a row.   

Fall - Winter

Sedentary by nature, this northern bird will head south in search of food if its breeding range can’t provide enough nourishment for its survival. Some winters, lack of food is the primary cause of death in Great Gray Owls. The courting display begins in mid-winter, and includes exchanges of food between the two partners. The breeding pair makes several trips to old abandoned nests before deciding which one to settle in. Males and females generally breed with each other for one season only. 

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chouette lapone

Par jacqueline lacroix, 2017-01-10, 04h37

elle vient ici près de mes mangeoires depuis 2 jours elle se perche sur mon air de jeux et y reste tout le jour ,ce qui m'inquiète c'est que l'an passé nous avions la visite d'une busse et nous l'avons trouvée morte après quelques visites ,je ne voudrais pas que ça se produisent encore ,Est-ce que je peux faire quelques chose pour elle ,je ne sais pas si elle est malade ou non et si elle manque de nourriture,mais elle n'est pas peureuse Est-ce parce qu"elle est malade qu'elle est comme cela merci de m'aider à aider bonne journée P,S. je n'arrive pas à vous envoyer l'image ,elle est enregistrée sur le bureau ???????????????

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