Great Gray Owl

1/400s, f8.0, ISO 1250, Canon Mark IV 1D w/800mm


The Great Grey Owl is distributed across the Northern Hemisphere. They breed in North America from as Far East as Quebec to the Pacific coast and Alaska. Their breeding habitat is the dense coniferous forests of the Boreal Forest near open areas, such as meadows or bogs. Great Grey Owls do not build nests, they typically use nests previously used by a large bird, such as a raptor. They will also nest in broken-topped trees and cavities in large trees. Nesting may occur from March to May. Four eggs are the usual clutch size. The incubation period is about 30 days, ranging from 28 to 36 days. Brooding lasts 2 to 3 weeks, after which the female starts roosting on a tree near nests. The young jump or fall from the nest at 3 to 4 weeks, and start to fly 1 to 2 weeks after this. Most offspring remain near their natal sites for many months after fledging. The abundance of food in the area usually affects the number of eggs a female lays, a feature quite common in northern owl species. If food is scarce, they may travel a fair distance to find more prey, with considerable movements by large numbers in some years of particularly scarce prey. Though they do not migrate, many are at least somewhat nomadic. These birds wait, listen, and watch for prey, then swoop down; they also may fly low through open areas in search of prey. Their large facial disks, also known as "ruffs", focus sound, and the asymmetrical placement of their ears assists them in locating prey, because of the lack of light during the late and early hours in which they hunt. On the nesting grounds, they mainly hunt at night and near dawn and dusk; at other times, they are active mostly during the night. They have excellent hearing, and may locate (and then capture) prey moving beneath 60 cm (2 feet) of snow in a series of tunnels solely with that sense. They then can crash to a snow depth roughly equal to their own body size to grab their prey.
Calgary, Canada
 
05/21/2012