Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa)


French: Chouette lapone German: Bartkauz Spanish: Cárabo lapón

Strix nebulosa

J. R. Forster

, 1772,

north-western Ontario, Canada


Affinities uncertain. Population from Kentei Mts, in N Mongolia, has been described as race elisabethae, but doubtfully separable from lapponica. Recent genetic study of North American populations indicates that individuals in Sierra Nevada (California) represent a distinct lineage, for which subspecific name yosemitensis has been proposed#R#R; no associated plumage, morphometric or vocal differences reported, however, and further study desirable. Two subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. n. nebulosa J. R. Forster, 1772 – North America from C Alaska E to SE Canada (SW Quebec), S in USA to EC California, N Idaho and NE Minnesota.
  • S. n. lapponica Thunberg, 1798 – Eurasia from Fennoscandia E to C Chukotka, S to Poland, Belarus and N Ukraine, N Mongolia, NE China and Sakhalin#R#R.
  • Descriptive notes

    57–67 cm; male 568–1110 g, female 977–1900 g. Large owl, with big rounded head and small, “staring” eyes; slow, deep wingbeats in flight. Facial... read more


    Series of low, evenly spaced "hoou"; notes, deep and booming, accelerating and dropping... read more


    Extensive stands of mature boreal or coniferous forest, favouring areas with openings: taiga... read more

    Food and feeding

    Small mammals, especially rodents, dominate most diets; also shrews, small birds (though reports up to size of grouse [Tetraonidae]), and... read more


    Season Mar–Jul in North America; Mar–Aug in Europe. Monogamous; occasional polygyny suspected; pair-bond not maintained over... read more


    Resident and nomadic; movement patterns variable, stable in some areas and/or years, highly... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Populations fluctuate widely, but generally scarce, with food supply likely critical factor regulating numbers; BirdLife... read more

    Recommended citation

    Holt, D.W., Berkley, R., Deppe, C., Enríquez Rocha, P., Petersen, J.L., Rangel Salazar, J.L., Segars, K.P., Wood, K.L. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 21 February 2020).