Fun Great Grey Owl Facts For Kids

Joan Agie
Nov 16, 2022 By Joan Agie
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Chandan Shukla
Great Grey Owl facts about an owl with no tufts.

A must-watch on the list of bird lovers who travel to see the exotic birds in the world is a Great Grey Owl (or Great Gray Owl), who gives great pleasure when found in the wild. Perched at heights, this is a beautiful nocturnal owl with its large yellow eyes and long black and white feathers.

The large bird is found throughout the Northern hemisphere; it lives in colder climates near the Arctic. With a wonderful sense of hearing, the owl can hunt its prey even under two feet of snow.

Not lazy at all but still doesn’t build a nest of its own, and prefers nest site abandoned by other big birds. Though solitary, the species loves family bonding and sticks together for fledglings to become independent.

Though the sight of an owl is not considered good and having one as a pet is illegal and needs permission under strict scrutiny, you can adopt an owl and make donations to a rehab center and own one. Read on for Great Gray Owl facts.

Check out sea eagle and barn owl facts too if you like this article.

Great Grey Owl Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Great Grey Owl?

Great Gray Owls are carnivorous nocturnal birds that hunt at night. The size of the owl is deceptive because of its fluffy feathers.

Among all raptors, this species has the most prominent facial disc. Though solitary, the species live in a strong family setup, with the male feeding the young ones and the female tending and caring at the nest site.

What class of animal does a Great Grey Owl belong to?

A Great Gray Owl belongs to the Aves class of the Strigidae family. The scientific name of the species is Strix nebulosa. There are two subspecies of Great Gray Owl, Strix nebulosa nebulosa and Strix nebulosa lapponica.

How many Great Grey Owls are there in the world?

Though the Great Gray Owl population’s exact count is unknown, they’re found in abundance both in the wild and in captivity.

Where does a Great Grey Owl live?

The Great Gray Owl lives in a nest (but doesn’t build its own nest site) and perches most of its time at a high place on tall trees. They prefer the dense, coniferous forest range of the Great Gray Owl around the Arctic treeline’s edge.

Found in the western United States, as well as in Alaska and Canada, they have their habitats in Europe, North America, and Asia. They are solitary and live away from open areas of human development.

What is a Great Grey Owl’s habitat?

The main habitat of a Great Gray Owl is the dense coniferous forest with fir and one tree. As they love to perch on a height, they also prefer higher rocky mountains.

As this owl has very thick plumage, the species prefer cold climates, but they are adapting to higher temperatures of the summer with time. Since it is a solitary being, it stays away from humans.

Who do Great Grey Owls live with?

Owls are solitary and prefer to live on their own, perched at heights in open areas. However, as a pair, the owls take care of their young ones until they are efficient enough to hunt their prey and live independently. They are territorial and aggressively protect their nest sites.

How long does a Great Grey Owl live?

The lifespan of the Great Gray Owl is about 12 years in the wild and 40 years in captivity.

How do they reproduce?

The great gray owl (Strix nebulosa) reproduces by sexual reproduction. The large bird sexually matures at three years of age.

The males approach the females with meat since the courtship involves mutual preening and feeding. The nest sites are inspected and chosen by both males and females since they don’t build their own nest and reuse other large birds’ nests for breeding.

Female lays two to five eggs, each a day apart. The incubation period is about a month.

Suppose the brood or first clutch of eggs is lost for some reason, then the females lay the second clutch of eggs in the same breeding season. It is the responsibility of the males to hunt the prey and provide enough food for the females and the young ones.

The hatchlings leave the nest sites in less than a month, and fledging occurs after two months. The young are taken care of until they learn to hunt their prey independently.

What is their conservation status?

According to the IUCN Red List, the conservation status of the Great Gray Owl is Least Concern.

Great Grey Owl Fun Facts

What do Great Grey Owls look like?

The Great Gray Owl has a round face with yellow eyes. The face has concentric dark circles with no ear tufts.

They have a sharp bill under which there is a streak of white resembling a beard. The flight feathers are mottled gray-brownish and dark, and the underparts are pale with a long barred dusky tale. They don’t have tufts but are great at hearing.

Great Grey Owls are like little owls in big owl clothing.

How cute are they?

It has a sharp beak, and the chin is dark, surrounded by white marks as if it is wearing a bow. Some also term the white streak as resembling a beard.

Looking for its prey, the owl appears seemingly cute, rotating or cocking its head. Finely serrated wings, which help in its silent flight, give the owl a fabulous look. A formation like the letter ‘X’ between the sharp yellow eyes gives it a bold look that the bird is.

How do they communicate?

The Great Grey Owl calls are low-pitched hoots, primarily the very soft call. But when Great Grey Owl sounds in repeated hoots with short notes, it is for its territorial declaration and heard as far as 800 m. They have very sharp hearing abilities.

The Great Grey Owl call, when in pairs, is single hoots while they shriek and wail and snap their bills to express themselves. A pair hunt for each other. This is another aspect of their courtship.

When threatened, the owl snaps its beak, spreading its wing wide while growling. The growl can be a sign of excitement.

How big is a Great Grey Owl?

The Great Grey Owl size is one of the largest owl species on earth. Great Grey Owl's wingspan is 53.9-60.2 in (137-153 cm). This owl stands tall to a height of two feet. The fluffy plumage gives the owl its large structure. Hence they are also known as little owls in big owl clothing. Females grow bigger than males.

How fast can a Great Grey Owl fly?

The exact speed of the Great Gray Owl is not available, but large owls are said to fly at almost 30 mph (48 kph). This owl is a great hunter, and there is no escape from it in its habitat.

Once the prey is heard and traced, the owl swoops from their nests at high speed and dives fast to grasp the meal in its strong talons.

How much does a Great Grey Owl weigh?

The owls are significantly large in appearance because of their fluffy plumage, but they weigh between 1.3-4.2 lb (580-1900 g).

What are their male and female names of the species?

Female owls are called owl hens, and males are called owl cocos. However, the females are larger than males and are high-pitched compared to male hoots.

What would you call a baby Great Grey Owl?

Like any other young owl, the young owl Strix nebulosa is also called an owlet. But a young one with fully grown feathers is just learning to fly. Then it is called a fledging.

What do they eat?

They prey on small mammals, primarily rodents. However, they also relish locally available moles, hares, shrews, and weasels.

They have excellent hearing senses and sharp eyes and can trace their prey two feet underneath the snow. Pocket gophers are their favorite. They swoop fast and dive into the snow to plunge for their prey before hearing out.

Small birds like thrushes, Canada Jays, grouses, and mountain quails are also taken as prey, depending on the availability in the forest. Small hawks and ducks are also hunted, but the species don’t scavenge even when food is scarce.

Are they dangerous?

Yes, they are dangerous if troubled. Both males and females ferociously guard their nest against another great grey owl. Great gray owls have a strong force, like a bite of a guard dog when it clutches with its strong talons, which impacts permanently disfiguring or killing in the circumstances.

Would they make a good pet?

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act says that having an owl as a pet is illegal. However, proper training and a license are required to keep an owl in their aviary with large nests. Experts agree that an owl is a lousy bird and unsuitable as a pet.

It is a messy bird too. Cleaning the leftovers, blood, and all of the raw meat, the mess after it regurgitates, and smelly poop would not be on the list of a pet owner who wishes to have a companion. Even after all this, one is not welcome in the neighborhood with its hooting all night.

Did you know...

The provincial bird of Manitoba is the Great Grey Owl.

The angle at which it can cock its head for prey is 270 degrees.

The man who pioneered the erection of platforms for nests for Great Grey Owls was Robert Nero in central Canada in 1970.

Great horned owls are also native to North America. Great Horned Owls and Great Gray Owls share the habitat and feed on rodents, and both don’t build their nests independently.

What does it mean when you see a Great Grey Owl?

There are many beliefs around an owl. It symbolizes death for some, while a few believe seeing an owl will bring about a significant change in their lives.

White owls are a good omen for some, while others believe they are messengers from the spirit world and believed to be essential for wizards and black magic. Some Potterheads strongly believe that Great Grey Owl Patronus is cast by strong spirits and the sight of this owl has a very bad reputation.

Why is the Great Grey Owl endangered?

According to IUCN Red List, the Great Gray Owl is Least Concern. But the population of this species is declining because of a decline in their natural habitat like coniferous forests.

Urbanization is the primary reason. In 2015, a study in California revealed that there were less than 300 of these birds in California. It was listed as an endangered species in the state.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created many interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including secretary bird, or tawny owl.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Great Grey Owl coloring pages.

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Written by Joan Agie

Bachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

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Joan AgieBachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.

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Fact-checked by Chandan Shukla

Bachelor of Science specializing in Computer Science

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Chandan ShuklaBachelor of Science specializing in Computer Science

With a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Aryabhatta College, University of Delhi, Chandan is a skilled and passionate technophile. He has completed a machine learning training program and is adept in various programming languages. He has been working as a content writer for two years while also striving to become a proficient tech professional.

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