Meet the largest owl species in North America

November 3, 2015, 1:38 p.m.

Meet the largest owl species: the great gray owl. Or is it the largest?

There are actually quite a few ways to decide on how big a bird species really is. Is it by wingspan? By length? By weight? The great gray owl certainly owns one of these categories.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, "Although the Great Gray Owl is the tallest American owl with the largest wingspan, it is just a ball of feathers. It preys on small mammals and has relatively small feet. Both the Great Horned and Snowy owls weigh half again as much, and have larger feet and talons."

The wingspan of this species is an impressive 60 inches. And yet, it weighs only 2-3 pounds. The snowy owl, with a wingspan of 49-59 inches, weighs as much as twice that amount. Because it it is a less powerful bird, the great gray owl goes for smaller prey, usually mice and squirrels. The snowy owl on the other hand will take anything from lemmings to large hares and medium-sized geese.

It just goes to show: size is relative.

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Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.