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great gray owl nest

The Great Gray is one of the tallest species of owls, however, its large size is due to a fluffy and thick plumage, the owl’s body is considerably smaller than it appears.

Great Gray Owls—which are also known as Lapland Owls, bearded owls, or spectral owls—are easily identified by a large, rounded face with yellow eyes, and a “bow-tie” around the neck region.

Great Gray Owls live in the dense conifer forests of Canada, the northern United States, northern Europe and northern Asia. In recent years, their habitat has declined due to logging and shrinking populations of rodents.

Great Gray Owls primarily hunt by detecting high-frequency sounds made by rodents rustling in the underbrush. The owl has a broad, circular face that acts like a sort of satellite dish receiver for receiving sound waves. Outlining the owls face is a ring of highly sensitive feathers that funnel sounds to the ear canals located on either side of the head. A thin barrier of bristle feathers divides the two sides of the face, allowing for accurate stereo sound.

Great Gray Owls hunt during both the day and night and will feed mainly on small animals. Gophers, moles, mice, shrews, squirrels and weasels are favorite prey of Great Gray Owls.

Courtship begins in midwinter and occurs when a male approaches a female to offer her a rodent he has hunted.

Nesting occurs in March through May and Great Gray Owls often use the discarded nests of other large raptors such as ospreys, or will nest in tree cavities. Nesting sites are almost always selected within 1 kilometer of an open meadow in which the owls can hunt.

There are typically two to five eggs in a clutch, and incubation generally lasts around 30 days. The male owl hunts for food to sustain the mother owl, who incubates the eggs for the entirety of the period.

Three to four weeks after hatching, the young owls are old enough to climb out of the nest and perch themselves on a branch where they will observe the parent owls hunting. One to two weeks after leaving the nest, the owls are ready for their first flight.

Great Gray Owls have been documented to live up to 40 years in captivity. Shortage of prey caused by habitat destruction is the number 1 cause of death in the wild.

  • topic: owls

  • location: western montana

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about the owl research institute

Owl Research Institute for the Great Gray owl live nest cam

The largest owl in North America, the Great Gray Owl has a wingspan of up to 60 inches. But it’s its dish-like face, big yellow eyes and “bow-tie” that makes this owl one of the most iconic species in the world.

And while their bodies appear massive, the owls only weigh 2-3 pounds. The illusion of size is the result of very fluffy plumage. Still, great gray owls need a large nest to raise a family, either taking over abandoned nests of other big birds like the raven or red-tailed hawk, or by building them on wide, flat platforms. This owl couple has made its home in a “snag”, a wide diameter tree broken off at the top.

The mother alone will incubate their nest of eggs and brood their chicks while the father hunts for the entire family. About 5 weeks after hatching, the chicks will climb out onto other nearby branches and trees, taking flight about a week later.

The Great Gray Owl Nest Cam is made possible through partnership between Owl Research Institute and Explore.org.

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location: Western Montana

best hours: 24/7

time zone: Mountain Time

links: Owl Research Institute
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The Great Gray is one of the tallest species of owls, however, its large size is due to a fluffy and thick plumage, the owl’s body is considerably smaller than it appears.

Great Gray Owls—which are also known as Lapland Owls, bearded owls, or spectral owls—are easily identified by a large, rounded face with yellow eyes, and a “bow-tie” around the neck region.

Great Gray Owls live in the dense conifer forests of Canada, the northern United States, northern Europe and northern Asia. In recent years, their habitat has declined due to logging and shrinking populations of rodents.

Great Gray Owls primarily hunt by detecting high-frequency sounds made by rodents rustling in the underbrush. The owl has a broad, circular face that acts like a sort of satellite dish receiver for receiving sound waves. Outlining the owls face is a ring of highly sensitive feathers that funnel sounds to the ear canals located on either side of the head. A thin barrier of bristle feathers divides the two sides of the face, allowing for accurate stereo sound.

Great Gray Owls hunt during both the day and night and will feed mainly on small animals. Gophers, moles, mice, shrews, squirrels and weasels are favorite prey of Great Gray Owls.

Courtship begins in midwinter and occurs when a male approaches a female to offer her a rodent he has hunted.

Nesting occurs in March through May and Great Gray Owls often use the discarded nests of other large raptors such as ospreys, or will nest in tree cavities. Nesting sites are almost always selected within 1 kilometer of an open meadow in which the owls can hunt.

There are typically two to five eggs in a clutch, and incubation generally lasts around 30 days. The male owl hunts for food to sustain the mother owl, who incubates the eggs for the entirety of the period.

Three to four weeks after hatching, the young owls are old enough to climb out of the nest and perch themselves on a branch where they will observe the parent owls hunting. One to two weeks after leaving the nest, the owls are ready for their first flight.

Great Gray Owls have been documented to live up to 40 years in captivity. Shortage of prey caused by habitat destruction is the number 1 cause of death in the wild.