Great Grey Owl

(Strix nebulosa)




Facts about this animal

The Great grey owl is a very large owl. It has an average body size of 70 (61-84)cm. Wingspan is about 140 cm and they weigh on average 1. 3 kg (males 535-1100 g, females up to 1900 g). It has a large, round head, a pronounced facial disc with concentric rings and relatively small yellow eyes. Great grey owls lack ear tufts. They have two white throat streaks (like mustaches) and a black chin spot. The Great grey owl has a long tail which extends beyonds the folded wings. The overall body plumage is grey, mottled with varying.


Great grey owls live mostly in dense spruce and pine forests. Their nests, often former buzzard, goshawk or eagle nests located on trees, sometimes also ground nests, are usually close to the edge of the forest but may be encountered also in wetlands or, occasionally, in birch forests. In a rather small area around the owls are territorial but do tolerate other raptors or owls.


A clutch consists on average of 4.2 eggs (range: 1 to 9), which are incubated for 30 days by the female alone, while the male provides his spouse with food. The chicks hatch at intervals of 2-3 days. They leave the nest when about one month old. 


The great grey owl feeds mainly on mice, voles and shrews. Occasionally they take frogs or birds up to blue jay size.

Did you know?
that the pronounced facial disc acts like a "radar dish", guiding sounds into the ear openings, and that the great grey owl has the largest facial disc of all owl species?


Class AVES
Name (Scientific) Strix nebulosa
Name (English) Great Grey Owl
Name (French) Chouette lapone
Name (German) Bartkauz
Name (Spanish) Cárabo lapón
Local names Estonian: Habekakk
Finnish: Lappinpöllö
Lithuanian: Laplandiné peléda
Norwegian: Lappugle
Swedish: Lappuggla
CITES Status Appendix II
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
BS Thurner Hof



Range Eurasia and North America Asia: China; Kazakhstan; Mongolia; Europe:Belarus; Finland; Lithuania; Norway; Russian Federation; Sweden; Ukraine; vagrants into Central Europe and locally extinct in Latvia. North America: Canada; United States
Habitat Boreal forests.
Wild population The global population is roughly estimated to be 60.000 individuals (Partners in flight 2008).
Zoo population 224 reported to ISIS (2007)

In the Zoo

Great Grey Owl


How this animal should be transported

Owls travel best in completely dark boxes. Boxes should be slightly longer than the head to tail length of the bird intended to travel, and wide and high enough for the bird to be able to stand or lie down in comfort without banging its shoulders or head. A well made wooden box with no perches is required, with carpet or some other non slip surface fixed on the floor and a padded ceiling, with air-holes on either side. The easiest type of door to use is an upward sliding door at one end. The door can then be slid up a small amount; the bird visualised before being grasped by the legs, carefully, through the small opening before sliding the door fully open for removal. A handle fixed to the top of the box makes carrying easier.

For air transport, Container Note 20 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Sander van Duuren

Why do zoos keep this animal

The reason for keeping Lapland owls in zoos is primarily educational. These are large and attractive birds, which make attractive exhibits, in particular if associated with capercaillie.