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Largest Owl Species (A Complete Overview)

The largest owl species are the Blakiston’s fish owl, Eurasian eagle-owl, great grey owl, snowy owl, and great horned owl.

There are more than 225 owl species in the world, some large and some small. But what are the biggest owl species in the world?

Each owl has its own unique characteristics and features. In this article, we will take a closer look at the largest owl species in the world, explain how big they really are, and discuss their most prominent features.

1. Blakiston’s Fish Owl

The Blakiston’s fish owl (Bubo Blakistoni) is very rare. They are also the biggest owls in the world, with a wingspan of 72 inches (180 cm).

Weight 6-9 pounds (2.7-4 kg)
Wingspan 72-78 inches (180-200 cm)
Habitat Riparian forest in Japan and Russia
Blakiston Fish Owl
Image Source

Habitat

Blakiston’s fish owls lives in riparian forests which have rivers running through them. There are few of these forests left.

This owl is not named after the Blakiston fish owl, but it does run near the Blakiston valley where these magnificent owls reside.[1]

Blakiston fish owls are considered to be an endangered species, hence the habitat of Blakiston fish owls is protected and preserved. They can travel along rivers to find new areas to live or places where they can hunt.

Appearance

  • Blakiston’s fish owl is the largest owl in the world.
  • One of its more notable traits is its bright orange eyes, which is quite rare in most other species.
  • Blakiston’s fish owls have a prominent facial disk featuring white eyebrows and yellow-orange feet.
  • Blakiston fish owls are white to rusty-brown with bright orange eyes.
  • Blakiston’s fish owls have prominent ear tufts, however, these are not visible in all Blakiston’s fish owl individuals.
  • Their baby owls are born black and turn golden brown as they mature.

2. Eurasian Eagle Owl

The Eurasian Eagle Owl is a bird of prey in the family Strigidae. It is also known as an eagle owl or Eurasian eagle-owl. It is from Eurasia and is the second-largest species in the world.

Weight 6-8 pounds (2.7-3.5 kg)
Wingspan 63-74 inches (160-188 cm)
Habitat Woodlands, deserts, mountains, open grasslands, and riverbeds in Asia, Europe, and Northern Africa
Eurasian Eagle Owl

Habitat

Eurasian Eagle Owls live high in Eurasia, from Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia all the way to northern Mongolia. Eurasian Eagle Owls adapt easily to different habitats. This makes them extremely flexible when it comes to living arrangements.[2]

The owl prefers open habitats with scattered small pockets of trees. Eurasian Eagle Owls live in open fields and lightly wooded forests. It should also be noted that Eurasian Eagle Owls need many perches to rest on throughout the day.

Appearance

  • Eurasian eagle-owls are the largest Eurasian scops owl and differ from Eurasian Scops Owls by their larger size and lack of dark rings around the eyes.
  • Eurasian eagle-owls’ plumage is usually lighter than Eurasian Scops Owl, and they have a different coloration on their face.
  • The Eurasian eagle-owl has a white and brown coloration, with horizontal bars across their chest and vertically barred upper parts.
  • Eurasian eagle-owls also have large ear tufts that they can raise and lower at will.

3. Great Grey Owl

The Great Grey Owl, another one of the largest of the owls, is a large bird native to North America. They have a wingspan that can reach up to 60 inches. It has leading-edge primaries that are long and wide creating an aerodynamic shape for silent flight.

Weight 2.5 pounds (1.15 kg)
Wingspan 48-60 inches (120-152 cm)
Habitat Dense evergreen pine and fir forests with nearby meadows in North America
Great Grey Owl

Habitat

Great Grey Owls live in habitats of dense forests, typically pine and fir. These forests typically have a small opening or meadow nearby where they hunt.[3]

They have been recorded creating nests in large tree cavities and on the tops of cliffs. Though Great grey owls have been found breeding in the same nesting sites year after year, they often move their nests over time.

Appearance

  • The Great Grey Owls are tall birds with long wings reaching close to four feet in length, which are often kept wrapped around their body when flying.
  • They have grey or darker feathers covering their head and dark rings around their eyes, giving them a somewhat menacing look.
  • The mask around their eyes is often described as having a shape similar to the mask of comedy and tragedy, which seems fitting since these owls can sometimes appear more comical than tragic.
  • The feathers on their body are mostly light and silver-grey in color, but on closer inspection contain browns, rusts, and even some white feathers mixed in on occasion.
  • Their beak is a dark shade of grey or black and their talons are long, curved, and sharp. The tufts on the top of their head have been described as “wool-like” in appearance.

4. Snowy Owl

Most of the world knows that America is home to majestic and regal eagles, but few know about their cousin, the Snowy Owl. This white-feathered predator is a silent killer known for its ability to take down prey twice its size.

Weight 4.5 pounds (2 kg)
Wingspan 48-57.5 inches (120-146 cm)
Habitat Tundras in North America and the Arctic
Snowy Owl

Habitat

Snowy Owls are most commonly found inhabiting the Arctic tundra, barren coastal cliffs, and islands. They also inhabit the taiga forest and alpine meadows. They especially prefer regions high in latitude, altitude, and/or open terrain where they can hunt for large prey like lemmings.[4]

Due to their white color, they blend in perfectly in snow, allowing them to sneak up on prey without being detected. 

These owls are mostly solitary birds, although they will congregate during the breeding season around favorable hunting areas. They nest on the ground or on cliffs and lay 3-11 eggs per mating season, which they incubate for about five weeks.

Appearance

  • The Snowy Owl is a medium-sized bird, about 23 to 33 inches tall, and has a wingspan of 48 to 57.5 inches.
  • They have large white plumage as their name suggests, but all individuals have darker rings around their eyes and some may even have dark spots on their breasts. 
  • Males tend to be more heavily marked with spots, while females are usually whiter.
  • The Snowy Owl’s appearance varies depending on the environment in which they reside.
  • The tundra sub-species have all-white plumage. There are variations of markings amongst different individuals living in this habitat.

5. Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned Owl is a large North American owl. It has two common names, the “Tiger Owl” in some areas of the United States and “Buho Hombre Grande” in Mexico.

Weight 3.2 pounds (1.45 kg)
Wingspan 55 inches (140 cm)
Habitat Deserts, wetlands, forests, grasslands, backyards, and cities in North America, South America, and the Arctic
A great horned owl staring

Habitat

The Great Horned Owl is widespread and can be found almost anywhere that is warm enough for them to survive in the Americas. The habitats of these birds vary from anything between deserts and mountain ranges, all the way down to coastal regions and swamps.

This owl adapts itself depending on the location where it is found. In colder climates such as Canada and the Northern United States, these owls tend to be bigger and bulkier than their southern counterparts.

Appearance

  • The Great Horned Owl is a large, powerful owl with distinctive “horns” on its head.
  • The feathers of this owl are brown with white spotted markings; the underbelly is lighter than the top side.
  • The pale face is accented by dark, circular “ear” tufts.
  • The eyes are yellow with darker brown pupils.
  • The legs and feet of the Great Horned Owl are covered in feathers up to its powerful talons – two on each foot that can grip firmly around prey.

Conclusion

The biggest owls in the world are the Blakiston’s fish owl, Eurasian eagle-owl, great grey owl, snowy owl, and great horned owl. These are all large owls, known for preying on larger animals by taking advantage of their size and strength.

FAQs

Is the eagle owl the biggest owl?

No, the largest owl is the Blakiston’s Fish Owl.

Which is the second largest owl?

The Eurasian eagle-owl is the second-largest owl in the world. It spends much of its time perching quietly and hunting by flying quickly over open ground and swooping down on prey.

Are owls stronger than eagles?

Eagles are larger and stronger than owls. The eagle gains strength from its sharp claws and formidable beak to carry out daily life activities or when hunting for food.

About Kaitlin Mullins

Birds are plenty, and they can be hard to keep track of. Thankfully, Katilin Mullins has taken charge of these. With plenty of free time spent bird watching, she’s a true expert on these intriguing animals.