The Great Gray Owl is one of the largest owls in the world, and it is Manitoba's provincial bird. It is grey all over, peppered with darker and lighter markings.
When perched, this bird appears very bulky because of its dense and fluffy plumage, long wings that extend past the body, relatively long tail and large head. It typically measures 61 to 84 cm in length (24 to 33 in.). It is the largest owl species in North America, but, weighing 790 g to 1.5 kg (28 to 51 oz.), it is not the heaviest (the Great Horned Owl is heavier).
The Great Gray Owl is not known for its agility in flight, but hunting is not a challenge. Its preferred method is known as "still hunting", in which the bird sits and listens for its prey, then swoops down for the kill. It will fly rarely, except for short distances between perches, and it usually flies only a couple of metres (6 ft.) off the ground. Because of their excellent hearing, Great Gray Owls are able to hear prey such as small rodents moving beneath snow a foot deep (30 cm). When they swoop down they can break through a crust of snow strong enough to support a large, adult human!
Like other owls, the Great Grays do not build their own nests. They prefer to take over the abandoned nests of other large birds or even squirrels. Mating takes place in February and March. Two to five white eggs are laid per clutch, and each one is laid a day or two apart. The female does all of the incubating and the male does all of the hunting. Both will defend the nest if they feel threatened, even defending against animals as large as black bears!
The Great Gray Owl can be found in boreal forests across the northern hemisphere. In North America, they can be found from Alaska to Quebec. This owl's range extends into the United States, into the alpine forests of the west.