Deep Dive: Great Gray Owls

by OBDK on November 22, 2021

Great Gray Owls are huge members of the Strigidae family. They are between the size of a Great Horned Owl and a Bald Eagle. However, their size is mainly due to their feathers. When it comes to weight, they’re not the biggest owls.1


These owls are found in northern forests near bogs and meadows. They have a large facial disk and are gray all over. However, they have white markings by their eyes and their chin.1&2 They are quiet animals that avoid people. Because of how quiet they are and their feathers allowing them to blend in with their surroundings, these owls are also known as Phantom of the North and the Great Gray Ghost.1&3 


They can be found in North America and Eurasia. They’ll stay in northern areas unless they need to find food, in which case they’ll travel south during the winter. They mostly hunt small rodents. These owls like to nest in cavities or nests abandoned by other birds. At about two to three years old, Great Gray Owls will reproduce – they’ll pair up with one partner for this. Their offspring are threatened by Great Horned Owls and Northern Goshawks.3


Worldwide, Great Gray Owls have a stable population. However, in Oregon and California it’s a different story. They are threatened by habitat loss through the timber industry – which takes away their homes and the protection they need. They are also at risk of climate change. Audubon estimates that they’ll lose more habitat if the climate continues to warm.3


Did you catch our email on Barred Owls? They’re a close relative to the Great Gray Owl! Read here


  2. Sibley’s Owls of North America, by David Allen Sibley. Published by Earth Sky + Water, LLC. 2016.