Great grey owls are covered in thick grey feathers, which is very handy in the wild, as the grey colouring is fantastic camouflage.

It easily helps them blend into the background at night when they're hunting food. They have big round faces and bright yellow staring eyes. The disc shape of their faces also helps when hunting, as it directs sound straight to their ears.

This means they have acute hearing and can quickly detect rodents to eat and other small mammals, like rabbits and squirrels, even if prey is hiding under deep snow or in tunnels.

The amount of food available affects their breeding, so in a year when prey is scarce they might not breed. This means numbers regularly go up and down in the wild and, although they're not endangered as a species, careful monitoring is needed to ensure they don't reach the danger zone.

If you're ever lucky enough to see a Great grey owl in flight, with its large wingspan, you'll be stunned by its graceful beauty. Wild birds live in Scandinavia, North America, Canada and Mongolia.

Here, you'll find ours in special aviaries. We have a pair of them, who arrived from here in 2009 and they're the largest species of owl that we have in the zoo.

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Interesting facts

Where they live: Eurasia, Scandinavia, east to north Mongolia and north east China. They are also found in northern North America and Canada, from Alaska to Manitoba.

Habitat: Dense boreal and coniferous forests - favouring open, often boggy or tundra areas or clearings in which to hunt.

Diet: Mostly small mammals such as voles, mice and squirrels. Occasionally catch and eat birds.

Weight: 800g – 1.7kg

Threats: In some areas, timber harvesting may reduce the availability of large trees needed to nest in. May decline during times of limited prey availability.

Species Information

Scientific name Strix nebulosa lapponica
Order Strigiformes
Family Strigidae
Genus Strix
IUCN status Least Concern
Roles in the zoo


Human Impact: This species helps demonstrate that human activities are causing serious environmental damage.

Visitor experience

Exhibit Enhancement: This species connects visitors with the geographic areas that they originate from and helps develop further understanding of the environmental issues facing the species in those regions.