This owl is aptly named, as both males and
females are predominantly white in color, which
allows them to all but disappear into the snowy
tundra upon they live. Both sexes develop
brownish markings in the summer, when the snow
gives way to grasslands and fields, with females
being much more prominently marked. Juveniles are
dark grayish-brown in color.
One of the largest members of the owl family,
the snowy is 20-27 inches long, has a wingspan of
54-65 inches, and weighs 2.5-4.5 pounds. Females
are larger and heavier than males.
The snowy owl has a circumpolar distribution,
being found in the Arctic regions of North
America, Europe, and Asia. They favor treeless
places and wide-open spaces, with a special
preference for rolling terrain where they can
find a vantage point from which they can survey
the surrounding area. Although snowy owls often
move south in the winter, they do so in order to
follow prey, not to find a warmer climate.
Unlike other owls, snowy owls
hunt during the day, from dawn to dusk, and will hunt
at all hours during the continuous daylight of an
Rodents, especially lemmings, make up most of
the diet, but snowy owls will eat almost any kind
of prey they can catch, including other birds and
fish. They have also been known to raid traplines
for trapped animals and bait, and will take
carrion if live prey is unavailable. Prey are
captured on the ground, in the air, or snatched
off the surface of water bodies. Small prey are
swallowed whole, while larger prey are carried
away and torn into large chunks. Small young are
fed boneless and furless pieces.
Males begin courting females in
mid-winter. In addition to aerial and ground
"displays," males often kill and
display prey in caches to impress females.
Breeding and nesting generally occurs in May,
when prey numbers are typically at their highest.
The snowy owl nests almost exclusively on the
ground, where the female makes a shallow scrape
with her talons on top of an elevated rise,
mound, or boulder and lines it with scraps of
vegetation and feathers. Nest sites must be near
good hunting areas, be snow-free, and command a
view of surroundings. There is little breeding
site-faithfulness between years or mates in some
areas, but in other areas, a pair of owls may
nest in the same spot for several years.
Clutch sizes normally range from 5 to 8 white
eggs, but may be as many as 14 eggs during high
lemming years. They are laid at approximately
two-day intervals. The female incubates while the
male brings her food and guards the nest. Eggs
hatch in 32-34 days, at two-day intervals. Young
begin to leave the nest after about 25 days, and
fledge at 50 to 60 days. Both parents feed and
tend the young. They are both fiercely protective
of both eggs and young, and may attack intruders
up to a half-mile away. Parental care and
protection ends once the young can hunt on their
Snowy owls can live at least 9.5 years in the
wild, and 35 years in captivity.
Other Habits and
Snowy owls have a direct, strong, and steady
flight, with deliberate, powerful downstrokes and
quick upstrokes. They typically make short
flights, close to the ground, from perch to perch
or perch to ground.
Normally silent, snowy owls can become quite
vocal during the breeding and nesting season. The
typical call of the male is a loud, harsh,
grating bark, while the female has a similar
higher pitched call. During the breeding season
males have a loud, booming "hoo, hoo"
given as a territorial advertisement or mating
call. Females rarely hoot. Its alarm call is a
When excited it may emit a loud "hooo-uh,
hooo-uh, hooo-uh, wuh-wuh-wuh." Other
sounds are dog-like barks, rattling cackles,
shrieks, hissing, and bill-snapping.
Nestlings "cheep" up to 2 weeks of age,
then hiss and squeal.
genus & species Bubo scandiacus
The Owl Pages http://www.owlpages.com/owls.php?genus=Bubo&species=scandiacus
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