The size of Ural Owl (Strix uralensis) is about 60–62 cm in length with a wingspan of 126–134 cm. Ural owls are large and elongated, with long, rather pointed tails. They are not as large as Great Grey Owls but are much heavier than Tawny Owls. Ural owls belong to the Strix genus, commonly called wood owls.
Rather than displaying a blank expression, this owl species exhibits a saturnine expression. The face is creamy grey, almost rounded (without the dark central divide between the fore-crown and bill as in Tawny) and the eyes are dark and rather small (obviously smaller than those in Tawny). Unlike the Tawny Owl, the Ural Owl has prominent dark streaks on its head, upperparts, and underparts.
This species is likely to be confused only with Great Greys or pale northeastern forms of Eurasian Eagle Owls in poor flight views. This species lacks a conspicuous pale orangey-buff panel at the base of the primaries and a broad dark terminal band on the tail, making it paler and less gray than the Great Grey.
Smaller than the Eurasian Eagle Owl, it has a flatter face, a longer tail, and broader dark bars on the flight feathers. As a result, it is unlikely that they can be confused with smaller Short-eared owls. There are many obvious differences between short-eared owls, including yellow eyes surrounded by dark patches, much more variegated upper wing patterns, a prominent yellowish-buff panel on the upper side of primaries, and a striking dark carpal patch and tip on otherwise pale underwings.
The Ural owl is monogamous, and pairs usually stay together for life and maintain a territory for several years. Several natural nesting sites exist in trees, such as large holes, cavities left by branches that have broken off, hollow trunks where canopies have been removed, and fissures in the trunk.
A Ural Owl’s flight is direct and powerful, with a mixture of glides and slow wingbeats. As it flies away through trees the flight resembles the Common Buzzard. The owl spends almost all of its time at night. It is often very aggressive at nest sites, similar to Tawny owls.
Juvenile owls are much like adults in terms of facial discs, flight feathers, and tails, but they retain much downy feathering throughout their bodies. A rather broad but indistinct dark barring is present on the head (except for the facial disc) and underparts of this bird. Grayish or brownish upperparts and white bars on the wing coverts.
There is a gap of a few seconds after the initial part of the call after which the Ural Owl will begin to hoot a deep, long-distant WHOOhoo, WHOOhoo WHOOhoo. The call may also be a ‘hoohoohoohoohoohoohoohoo’, rising to a crescendo before fading more guttural than similar calls of Short-eared Owls. Females have hoarser versions of both calls.
A short, barking alarm call is called a ‘waff’ or ‘waff-aff’. The female’s begging call is ‘kuVEHK’, which is a harsh sound. A young owl’s begging call is a hoarse, shrill ‘psee-ep’, similar to that of a tawny owl. There are three races according to geography.
Among owl species, the Ural owl is one of the most powerful hunters. A total of more than 200 species of prey are eaten by them, including more than 80 mammals. The Ural owl is a carnivore and prefers to eat small prey, especially mammals.
A variety of rodents, shrews, moles, and small mammals up to the size of hares, as well as birds, amphibians, and invertebrates, are part of their diet. Reptiles and fish are rarely taken.
The Ural Owl is generally uncommon, but it is scarce or rare in the south of its range. Additionally, it has been bred in Germany, Albania, Austria, Belarus, Lithuania, and Latvia. It is found mainly in forests and woodlands, usually coniferous or mixed, but mainly in mountain beech forests in the south.
Hunts in open areas, meadows, and clearings adjacent to cultivation and clearings. Frequently found close to human settlements, it prefers moist areas. The bird can also be seen in parks and around the edges of settlements during winter.