Snowy Owl Facts
- The truly magnificent Snowy Owl represents a rather large species of owl, despite the harshness of its habitat. It remains easily recognized for its distinctive features.
- This also forms one of the largest known species of owl. On average, individuals also commonly rank as the heaviest owl species as well.
- The bird possesses thick plumage, heavily feathered feet with claws, and distinctive color patterns. These render the Snowy Owl well-adapted for life north of the Arctic Circle.
Snowy Owl Physical Description
The eyes of the stunning Snowy Owl most commonly display a brilliant yellow, contrasting sharply with the black beak and white feathers.
Most adult males appear virtually pure white, but females and young birds have some dark markings. A young member of the species is also heavily barred, and dark spotting may even predominate.
The bird sometimes reaches a length of as much as 28 in (71 cm). Its wingspan may be up to 59 in (150 cm). Individuals may weigh almost 6.6 lb (3 kg).
Species: B. scandiacus
Snowy Owl Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The beautiful Snowy Owl nests in the Arctic tundra of the northernmost stretches of Alaska, Canada, and Eurasia. Most winter south through Canada and northern Eurasia, with a presence occurring further south in some years.
Most of the birds like open areas like coastal dunes and prairies that appear somewhat similar to tundra. The animals have been reported as far south as the American states of Texas, Georgia, the American Gulf states, southernmost Russia, and northern China.
The owl is a powerful animal for its size. It primarily preys on lemmings and other small rodents for food during the breeding season. However, at times of low prey density, or during the nesting period, it may switch to favoring juvenile ptarmigan.
The birds are opportunistic hunters and prey species may vary considerably, especially in winter. It feeds on a wide variety of small mammals such as meadow voles and deer mice.
The Snowy Owl will take advantage of larger prey as well. Some of the larger mammal prey includes hares, muskrats, marmots, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, prairie dogs, rats, moles, and smaller birds.
The owl will also take fish from the surface of lakes. Each bird must capture roughly 7 -12 mice per day to meet its food requirement and can eat more than 1,600 lemmings per year. Like many other birds, the Snowy Owl swallows its prey whole.
Snowy Owl Threats
Though Snowy Owls have few predators, the adults are very watchful and are equipped to defend against any kind of threat towards them or their offspring.
During the nesting season, the owls regularly defend the nests against arctic foxes, corvids, and swift-flying jaegers. Other threats include dogs, gray wolves and avian predators.
In addition, males defend the nest by standing guard nearby while the female incubates the eggs and broods the young.
Both sexes attack approaching predators, dive-bombing them and engaging in distraction displays to draw the predator away from a nest.