Great Gray Owl  ( Chouette lapone )      This species is of special interest to Timiskaming birders.    All sightings should be documented and reported.

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Strix nebulosa

Description:    Great Grey Owl
Photo Date:   March 28, 2005


Evanturel Township


Tony Juurlink

General Notes

When the number of winter visitors of a northern species varies widely from year to year, they are referred to as "irruptive" species, and the years in which they are particularly common are called "flight years".  The Great Gray Owl is, without doubt, the most conspicuous and impressive of our irruptive species.  In most winters, very few or none at all will be seen, but when an irruption occurs, they steal the show for winter birding. Unfortunately for birders, the timing of irruptions is never as regular or predictable as we would like, and is the result of complex factors relating to food abundance in the northern Boreal Forest. It is a myth that northern owls are forced south by unusually harsh winter weather or deep snow cover. If prey populations are high, the owls stay on their northern territories.

After several successive years of very good northern rodent populations and the resulting high levels of owl breeding success, the winter of 2008-09 was a notable irruption year. Other significant invasions have occurred in the winters of 1978-79, 1983-84, 1995-96, 1996-97, 2000-01 and 2004-05.

Abundance: Occasional Earliest observed date:  

Typical arrival date:

December 1
Breeding Status: Breeding Latest observed date: July 12

Typical departure date:

March 31

Documented Observations



May 22-24, June 11-13, 1993. One observed at Hilliardton Marsh during field work for a Master's thesis by David Locky.

March 28, 2005. One observed and photographed by the Fantin family in Evanturel Township. The bird was also banded.

July 12, 2008. One observed and photographed hunting beside Hwy. 65 in Barber Twp. by Michael Werner.

Winter of 2008-09 was an irruption year. About a dozen birds were discovered, at least half of whom spent a significant part of the winter in central Timiskaming, with many observers reporting and many photographs captured..


Banding Results



One banded in March, 2005 in Evanturel Township.