Wildlife spotlight: Great grey owl

Wildlife spotlight: Great grey owl

The Phantom of the North

Blending perfectly with the grey-brown bark of its conifer perch, the great grey owl (Strix nebulosa) becomes one with the forest. Its incredible stealth has earned it the name “Phantom of the North”.

Like most owls, its eyes are immobile and aimed instead by extremely flexible head movements. It lacks ear tufts and its chin and the space between its eyes (lores) bear prominent white patches. Though taller and appearing larger than the great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) due to its fluffy plumage, it actually weighs less, and its chicks are actually prayed on by great horned owls.

Great grey owls primarily hunt at night or at dawn and dusk. Equipped with powerful hearing, they hunt from low perches on the edge of openings, where they can hear small rodents deep under the snow. They attack with a short or hovering flight over the opening, pouncing feet first towards their prey through the snow. Special structures on their feathers make their flight almost soundless. Their hapless prey (usually a rodent) is swallowed whole. Voles comprise almost 90% of their diet, but great greys also prey on weasels, robins, grouse, and frogs.

Phone: (307) 733-9417
685 S. Cache St. PO Box 2728
Jackson, Wyoming 83001