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Animals & Attractions

Great Grey Owl

In our collection

We currently have two great grey owls in our collection. The female hatched in May 2002 and arrived from Banham Zoo in September 2002 at Edinburgh Zoo. Her name is Skye and she was moved to the Highland Wildlife Park in August 2011. A month later we welcomed a three year old male called Edwin to join her.

Where to see them

Our great grey owls can be seen in the enclosure next to the Eurasian beavers and Woodland walk.

Find out more

Status

Not Endangered NE
Data Deficient DD
Least Concern LC
Near Threatened NT
Vulnerable VU
Endangered EN
Critically Endangered CR
Extinct in the wild EW
Extinct EX

Least Concern

For more info on classifications visit www.iucnredist.org

Size

Population

Population stable, last assessed IUCN May 2012

Habitat

  • Forest and woodlands

    Forest and woodlands

Diet

In The Wild

The great grey owl (Strix nebulosa) is found throughout Northern Europe, Northern Asia and a significant proportion of North America. They are quite large birds, rivalling the Eurasian Eagle Owl in size. The great grey owl has a large, rounded head and yellow eyes, with light underparts mottled with darker grey feathers. Their wings and back are darker grey with lighter bars.

The great grey owl has a large "facial disk." The facial disk is a concave circle of feathers around the eyes of the bird. It helps to collect sound waves and direct them toward the owl's ears, helping the owl to locate its prey by sound. The great grey owl has the largest facial disk of any bird of prey.

Their diet consists mainly of small mammals and their preferred prey is voles, however they will also eat gophers, weasels, squirrels, rabbits, rats and mice. They nest in dense coniferous forests in most of the northern hemisphere.

The female will lay between two to six eggs at one- to two-day intervals. The female does all of the incubation, which starts when the first egg is laid. After four to six weeks the chicks hatch. The male provides all the food for the young, which is torn into smaller pieces by the female. When food is scarce the female great grey owl will often starve herself in order to feed her chicks, and may lose up to a third of her body weight. The chicks will leave the nest after approximately a month and can fly well after two months. The young stay close to home and are cared for by the female for some time after leaving the nest.

Meet our great grey owls