Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa)

Great Gray Owl


  • The long loose plumage of the great gray owl makes it the largest of all the owls in Alberta. It measures at 75 centimetres (29 inches) long.


  • The great gray owl's body is dark grey streaked throughout with lighter grey.
  • The large rounded head lacks ear tufts.
  • The facial disk is large and well defined.
  • Darker grey concentric circles surround the eyes.
  • In Alberta, they inhabit forests of the boreal forest and foothill regions in the northern half of the province.
  • Their total range includes the circumpolar coniferous forests of the world.
  • In North America they may winter as far south as California but most remain in Canada.
Natural History


  • Great gray owls are seldom found away from dense timber.


  • From a perch in a tree it swoops down upon its prey — usually small mammals and birds.

When Active

  • The great gray owl is most active during the early mornings and late evenings.
Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behavior

  • Nesting occurs in trees, usually in an old, bulky nest built by other birds.
  • Two to five eggs are laid.
Conservation and Management


The great gray owl is classified as Sensitive in the current General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:

Current management

  • Like all birds of prey in Alberta, the great gray owl is protected by the provincial Wildlife Act.


  • The great gray owl is a naturally scarce species.
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Updated: Apr 29, 2010