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Rare Winter Visitors – Great Gray Owls


Great Gray Owls are impressive birds – at 27” in length, they are our largest owl (Great Horned Owl – 22”, Snowy – 23”) but at 2.4 pounds, not our heaviest (Great Horned Owl – 3.1 pounds, Snowy – 4 pounds). The feathers that make a Great Gray Owl look so massive are what keep it warm during winters in the northern boreal forests where it resides.

Most of a Great Gray Owl’s diet consists of rodents, and some winters, when prey is scarce, individuals wander south to southern Canada and northern U.S. to sustain themselves. Sometimes Great Gray Owls are highly irruptive, and the number of sightings in the Northeast is high. In the winter of 1978-79 there were over 150 sightings in New England and Quebec. While there were numerous sightings in southern Canada this winter, northern New England was visited by only a few individuals, including the one pictured (in central New Hampshire).

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15 responses

  1. Alice Pratt

    Gorgeous owl. There are some awesome videos on YouTube, of owls and eggs harching.

    March 7, 2017 at 7:18 am

  2. Alice Pratt


    March 7, 2017 at 7:19 am

  3. Mary Janeway

    We have one here in Keene, NY.

    March 7, 2017 at 8:11 am

  4. Dianne Rochford


    You know that we have a Great Gray or is it Great Grey in our Town of Newport……..down the rail trail in back of Stetson’s Blacksmith Shop on Oak Street. I haven’t seen it. but my daughter has……

    :-), Dianne >

    March 7, 2017 at 8:32 am

  5. Phil

    Very cool ! Hope you are feeling better.

    March 7, 2017 at 8:33 am

  6. Dianne Rochford


    Why do the snowy and Great Grey have yellow eyes?

    And some sources call Great Grey diurnal, and others don’t classify them as such……..

    :-), Dianne >

    March 7, 2017 at 8:34 am

  7. Linda Trono

    Nice pic and article!

    Sent from my iPad

    March 7, 2017 at 9:37 am

  8. Those eyes! Woah…

    March 7, 2017 at 11:08 am

  9. Magnificent!

    March 7, 2017 at 5:26 pm

  10. Victoria Weber

    Mary- I cannot find a direct email for you, so sending this with 2 curiosities (to me) that might be worthy of posts in future.

    1- this winter I have seen 1″-2″ spruce branch tips on the ground all around several spruce trees in different locations. But not others. I assume this is some animal. Ideas?

    2- last fall you reported that deer have different micro-biomes/gut bacteria in winter that digest twig browse and winter feed and in the process make heat that helps warm the animal. Very cool! I wonder how they switch the bacteria between summer and winter. Where do the otehr ones come from? Reminds me of going to my closet and switching out winter for summer clothing, but I suspect it is a more interesting process. Can you tell us about it? I am now seeing deer out in bared-off hay mowings eating the dead grasses. Which type of bacteria help digest that?

    many thanks for all the wonder you bring us. Victoria Weber, Bethel

    March 7, 2017 at 5:48 pm

  11. Dianne Wright

    Dear Mary,

    A bird loving friend of mine is concerned about a bird in her yard. There is a white dove with a yellow tag on it’s leg and it hangs out with the pigeons under a bird feeder.

    So my friend, Nancy, is very concerned about this bird and wondering about the tag. She has made all kinds of inquiring phone calls with Audubon and the SPCA and is having no luck with anyone being interested in this bird.

    My question to you is, do you have any idea what the yellow tag might mean and should my friend worry about rescuing the bird? If its a pet I don’t know how it will survive outside.

    Thank you so much for listening.

    Much Appreciation, Dianne

    Sent from my iPad


    March 7, 2017 at 6:30 pm

  12. Alice Pratt

    ( trying to help: google: white dove with a yellow tag on it’s leg! Many results! )

    March 7, 2017 at 6:50 pm

  13. peter

    We have at least one here in Stonington Maine, I have some beautiful pictures

    March 7, 2017 at 8:08 pm

  14. Donna Ward

    We have one in Newport NH right now. He/she is not bothered by all the photographers.

    March 10, 2017 at 12:36 am

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