The Ural owl is a large owl that is part of the wood owl species. It has a round head, long dark brown tail no ear-tufts, and wings that are each 10-15 inches (267-400mm) long. Its coloring is white to pale gray, with rows of dark and light spots around the face and shoulders. The male Ural owls have a deep rhythmic song and females have a hoarse higher pitched song. Males sing from different perches to claim their territory and to can be heard courting mates with their song, which become duets. The pair mates for life and inhabits the same territory for years. The Ural owl is nocturnal, with peaks of activity at dawn and dusk and roost during the day in the cover of trees.
The Ural owl lives in mature deciduous and mixed forests in northern Europe from Scandinavia to Japan and is named for the mountains that are found along much of its range. Nesting in natural cavities in trees, hollow trunks and holes in rocks, they have been known to use the nests of larger birds or squirrels. Some countries, such as Finland, have created artificial nest boxes to create additional habitats for the Ural owl.
Owls are birds of prey and Ural owls hunt a variety of mammals, birds, frogs and insects. Their main prey are voles, shrews, mice and rats. The owl hunts from perches and stores excess food in their nests. The Ural owl has a number of adaptations that help make them effective hunters. The shape of the owl’s large, white facial disk helps them hear moving prey; the owl’s coloration helps them perfectly blend into their environment; and the serrated edges in the feathers on their wings help eliminate noise when flying, which helps the owl sneak up on their prey.
Due in part to its large range, the Ural owl is still common. However, population decreases have occurred in areas where hollow or broken trees have been removed, resulting in a reduction of suitable nesting habitats. In those cases, nesting boxes have been a successful conservation measure. In areas with growing open space such as fields and clear-fells, other species such as the Eagle owl can outcompete the Ural owl for food.