The largest of all of the North American owls, this Phantom of the North is about 33 inches long with a wingspan that could exceed 60 inches. That is a big bird! But really, it is just a ball of feathers. They weigh less than their counterparts, the Great Horned and the Snowy Owls. Easily identified by its round head, large gray facial discs and the white bow tie on its chin. It's underparts are light with dark streaks while its wings and back are gray with pale bars.
The Great Grey Owl is extremely rare in Wisconsin. In fact, there is only ONE confirmed Great Gray in the state! And that's the one near Mauston. They usually stay and breed in the timber forests of Canada and Alaska, with a few in northern Minnesota.
Great Grays feed exclusively on small rodents, utilizing their huge parabolic facial discs to pick up sound in locating their prey. These birds will wait, listen and then swoop down on their quarry, sometimes plunging into the snow. Funny as it may sound, these seemingly powerful birds don't have the strength to take down a duck or a cat. They are basically nocturnal, but they will sometimes hunt during the day.
These pictures were taken on 3/2/2013 on 21st Ave near Mauston, WI. When Tender Heart and I arrived on the site there were about 30 cars parked along side of the road and about 40 people surrounding a tree along the road, therefore we had no problems in tracking the bird. My hands started to shake and my heart pounded as my eyes laid upon this gorgeous bird! I took a few snaps from the roadside and chatted with a few familiar faces in the crowd. It seemed like to be a fun day!
I do not condone nor support the baiting, the harassment of wildlife, nor knowingly trespassing on private property (without permission) to take pictures. So, let's be legal about this and enjoy wildlife in their natural state. It's better this way.....