This giant owl, almost the size of an Eagle Owl, has so far been confirmed as nesting only in the beech forests of Central Stara Planina and Sashtinska Sredna Gora. However, there are some observations showing that its distribution in Bulgaria may be wider. Two adult individuals were found near the town of Krichim in June 1905 and May 1923, respectively. Professor Nankinov reported that he had heard a call near the hut Ledenika in the Vratsa Mountains on May 22, 1997 (Nankinov, 2002). Also in Vratsa Mountain, our colleague Radoslav Moldovanski observed an Ural Owl in October 2014. In recent years, it has been registered during the breeding season in Macedonia and Greece. It is possible to find the species in other places in old beech or mixed forests in the country, but it is difficult to locate it due to the lack of roads and the snow cover in early spring, when the it’s calling is most intense. If you are planning ornithological trips in such places, you can take the time to look for it specifically. You shall distinguish it from the Tawny Owl by several characteristics:

  • Larger size;
  • The shape and colour of the facial disc;
  • The longer tail, which when the bird is perched and seen from the back or side, it can be seen that it far exceeds the tips of the folded wings;
  • Fewer and wider dark tail stripes.

Young birds are difficult to distinguish from those of the Tawny Owl, and it is good to identify the parents who are probably nearby. The best time to look for it is February-March, when it can be provoked by playing its courtship calls. Most of the recordings of calls of this owl are made during the dark part of the day, so it is recommended to search after at least 9 pm. Sometimes, during the day, when it rests, it is attacked by various songbirds, which is typical in the presence of other predatory species, and if possible it is a good idea to check the places with such seemingly inexplicable bird “noise” in the forest. If you find it, try to record it or record its voice so that you can document the ornithological discovery.

Kalin Velev, Stoycho Stoychev
Nankinov D. (2002) Современное состояние популяций сов Болгарии, Беркут, 11(1): 48-60