Snowy Owl
Photo by Jakob Puff on Unsplash

Snowy Owl

(Genus, species:  Nyctea scandiaca)

Snowy Owls have always been a favourite animal of mine!  As far as owls go they seem to be very rare, so seeing one in the wild has always been a dream of mine.  They are so majestic with their beautiful, white feathers and long, gliding wings!

I've searched for some information on the Snowy Owl and have included some interesting facts about the Snowy Owl below.

 

Distribution/Location: The Snowy owl is mainly found in the cold, northern regions of Canada.  Outside of North America the Snowy owl may also inhabitat the arctic tundras of Greenland, Scandinavia, and Russia.

Willow Ptarmigan Distribution and Location

During the winter months the especially cold temperatures drive the owls further south where they can be found migrating in locations of southern Canada or even the northern states of the USA. Although Snowy Owls are typically migratory birds, they are also one of the few avian species capable of withstanding the harsh winters of the Arctic Tundra.

 

Snowy Owl Appearance
Photo by Patrick Brinksma on Unsplash

Appearance:  The snowy owl is one of the largest species of owls.  Snowy owls are covered in brilliant white feathers, which help them blend into their arctic surrounding.  The feathers entirely cover the owl—including the area around the talons.

The snowy owl has bright yellow and round eyes, which are useful for detecting prey even from tall heights. Interestingly though, the eyes of the snowy owl are considered small for an owl; probably because the snowy owl typically hunts during the day rather than at night like most owls. Another useful feature for catching prey is the beak of the snowy owl, which is small and ends in a sharp point. The strength of the beak is important as it allows the owl to dive for prey and sweep them up in a quick attack.

Description - male:  There are only a few differences found in the male snowy owl. The main difference is that the males tend to be whiter with fewer brown/grey bars and spots along the feathers.

Description - female:  Again, the female and male snowy owls are quite similar; however, female snowy owls are noticably larger than their male counterparts. On average the snowy owl weighs about 4lbs with a wingspan of 52".

 

Snowy Owl Feeding
Photographer: kgleditsch, Source: Flickr

Feeding:  The snowy owl is a bird of prey and only eats animals that it hunts and kills—it does not scavenge like many other carnivorous birds. Snowy owls mainly eat lemmings (as many as 5 per day!) Occasionally they will hunt for other small animals such as voles, arctic hares, or even small birds.

The migratory patterns of snowy owls have been studied, and interestingly, connections have been made between the population of lemmings in the arctic tundra and the migration of snowy owls. If there are enough lemmings in the tundra for owls to survive the winter in the tundra, they are more likely to remain in their habitat all year round.

 

Habitat:  The snowy owl can be found in the barren regions of the arctic tundra. They seem to prefer wide-open stretches of land rather than mountainous regions, especially during their breeding seasons.

 

Female snowy owl nesting on boulders
Photo by Gary Bendig on Unsplash

Mating:  Like much of the snowy owl life, lemmings are an important part of courtship. When a male wants to mate with a female owl, it must bring the female snowy owl a lemming. Then the female can either accept the lemming and mate with the male or reject it.

 

Nesting:  Snowy owls can lay up to 9 eggs during the breeding season. They create nests on the ground of the open tundra. In order to protect their eggs, snowy owls tend to nest in ground depressions or around boudlers. Snowy owls are fierce predators and defend their nests aggressively, attacking anything that threatens their eggs.

 

The Fox is an enemy of the Snowy Owl
Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash

Enemies:  Despite the strength and ferocity of snowy owls, they still have predators, mainly wolves and arctic foxes. Luckily the snowy owls have an effective defense—they can fly!

 

Migration:   Snowy owls are one of the few birds that can survive an arctic winter; however, they are also known to migrate if the winter temperatures are too harsh, there is a lack of lemmings, or it was a large breeding season (lots of new baby owls).

 


References

Holt, Denver W., Matt D. Larson, Norman Smith, Dave L. Evans and David F. Parmalee. 2015. Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.
Mark Brown (2014, December 19). Basic Facts About Snowy Owls. Retrieved December 15, 2017, from https://defenders.org/snowy-owl/basic-facts

 

Worksheets and Other Activities:

 


[Birds of Alberta]  [Canada Geese]  [Great Horned Owl]  [Merlin]  [Northern Goshawk]  [Pine Grosbeak]  [Puffin]  [Rock Dove]  [Ruffed Grouse]  [Sharp-tailed Grouse]  [Steller's Jay]  [Wild Turkey]  [Willow Ptarmigan]