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Largest European Owl at 65-70cm (a little larger than Common Buzzard). Adults: brown upperparts with blark markings including both streaks and bars in a somewhat irregular pattern. Underparts are clearly paler than upperparts, but have black streaks mainly on breast while belly has pattern of black feather shafts and cross-bars. Large, orange eyes appear in a facial disk that is greyish-brown to buff, bordered dark but with somewhat inconspicuous border. Eye-bows are pale stretching from above the eye to below the eye and running between the eye and the bill. The overall effect can be quite fierce-looking. Prominent wide ear tufts varying between pointed sideways or up and only disappearing in flight. Bill and claws black. Legs are fully feathered. Bright patch on outer wing visible in flight.
Basic color differs quite a lot through the huge range, from tawny to blackish to buff on upperside and to almost whitish or greyish-brown on underside. The extent of dark streaks on both upperside and underside is also variable.
It hunts a large variety of prey including mammals from voles and rats to hares, bird or varying sizes up to herons, buzzard and Capercaillie, reptiles, and even larger insects and earthworms. Often will prey on smaller owls occurring in the area.