The great grey owl

At that time of night when darkness decides to withdraw and daylight slowly awakens, you can see the bird gliding in the sky, bathed in soft golden light. Its flight is silent. Birch trees elegantly sway in the wind, inviting the owl to rest on their branches. The beautiful bird alights in a birch tree for an instant and the moment is unique, utterly fascinating. With its dark grey plumage, the great grey owl blends into its woodland surroundings. It has stunning yellow eyes with darker circles around them.

The silent spirit of the forest

The great grey owl is a nocturnal raptor and is also the largest European owl, with a wingspan of up to 1,50 m. It looks deceptively large, and hides a slight body under its fluffy plumage. Its feathers also provide effective isolation. Its feathers are dark grey in colour and mottled, allowing it to blend into its surroundings, a phenomenon which is called mimicry. 

The great grey owl has both excellent hearing and vision, which makes it easy for them to locate potential prey. They sometimes hunt during the day, especially during extreme cold periods, because they need to ingest a lot of food in order to have enough strength to fly. They swallow their prey whole. The prey’s fur, bones and feathers are later regurgitated in the form of an owl pellet.

The great grey owl is a protected species that suffers from the consequences of human activities: road traffic, power lines, deforestation...

Gliding through the air

Social life

The great grey owl is a monogamous and predominantly sedentary species. Their breeding season starts in January. The males attempt to seduce the females by performing aerial displays. The female lays a clutch of 3 to 5 eggs that she broods for 28 to 30 days. When their young are born, the parents are so busy feeding them they forget to eat and tend to lose some weight. When the young are 3 weeks old, they leave the nest even though they can’t fly. In the middle of the night, they fearlessly jump out of the nest, dropping several meters to the ground! The fledglings then remain near their nest, on the ground, flapping their wings until they manage to fly off about a week later.

Did you know that?

The great grey owl can rotate its head 270 degrees in either direction: this how it can end up with its head upside down... 

It can even swing its head around and look behind its back!

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Discover the European Big 5

The wolf, the lynx, the brown bear, the wolverine and the bison