Snowy Owls are commonly called Polar Owls or Arctic Owls. They are one of the largest owls in the world. These birds are large and powerful, capable of hunting birds much larger than them. They aggressively defend their nest which is often on mounds or rocky terrain. Males are pure white, whereas females maintain some brown spotting. Young males resemble adult females, and it takes a long time for them to gain the pure white plumage that the adult males have. Here are some facts and attributes associated with these magnificent creatures!
10 Amazing Facts About Snowy Owls
1.No other Owl species can breed as far north as Snowy Owls can!
Unaffected significantly by extremely cold temperatures, Snowy Owls can winter very far north. These owls have a number of physiological adaptations which make such climates suitable for them. It isn’t a surprise that their fur is snowy white considering the climate they live in. No other owl has a predominantly white plumage like Snowy Owls do.
2.Their migration is extremely unpredictable!
Like the social behavior of these owls during winters, their migration is also extremely unpredictable. Some individuals like living alone, while others are social and are frequently present in communal roosting sites. Not all Snowy Owls migrate during the winter and some that do migrate may not travel very far away. If the ecosystem of the regions they reside in is severely affected by the climate, they have no choice but to migrate. Ornithologists don’t always understand their mass irruptions.
3. Snowy Owls don’t need to move south during winter in order to stay warm!
When Snowy Owls migrate south during the winter, it isn’t so that they can stay warm. Instead, it’s because of the lack of an adequate food supply. Since these birds frequently migrate, they are capable of traveling massive distances. They may travel as far as Russia from Alaska, and back.
4. Snowy Owls have huge clutches!
Most Owl species don’t build nests, so they either reside in tree cavities excavated by Woodpeckers, or they use abandoned nests of other birds. Some species lay their eggs on the ground, or amidst the vegetation. In contrast, Snowy Owls have massive clutches, so they need to build a suitable nest to protect all of the eggs. Females construct the nest by making a circular hole in the ground. Males aggressively defend the nest. The pair is usually successful in driving away potential predators. These birds get only one opportunity to breed every year, and this process takes about 4.5 months. This is much longer than the average nesting season of other bird species. Snowy Owl clutches can contain 14-16 eggs if food is readily available. In absence of sufficient food, these clutches are significantly smaller, or the breeding process is entirely skipped.
5.Snowy Owls are one of the oldest living bird species seen in prehistoric cave art!
It isn’t a surprise that Snowy Owls are displayed in prehistoric cave art. This species has been around for a very long time and they have a history of association with native Eskimos. Although these people hunted Snowy Owls and ate their eggs, it’s clear that they respected these birds. This is apparent through the Snowy Owl carvings made from bone and ivory.
6. A Snowy Owl’s diet is centred around lemmings during the breeding season!
Snowy Owls are capable hunters that prey on a number of bird and animal species. During the breeding season, the diet of these birds is mostly dominated by mammals such as voles and lemmings. The scarcity of lemmings in certain areas has been known to cause disruptions in the Snowy Owl population. They also substitute lemmings for birds, carrion (dead animals) such as fish, foxes, walruses, and seals.
7. Surprisingly, a Snowy Owl was spotted at the Honolulu Airport in November 2011!
During the massive irruption of 2011, Snowy Owls dispersed to various locations across the globe. One owl traveled all the way south to the Honolulu airport. It seems unlikely that a Snowy Owl would intentionally travel so far south, so the most possible explanation is that the bird made several stops at ships that were traveling south as well.
8.Researchers have no clue if Snowy Owls have a permanent home!
There is no conclusive data to suggest that Snowy Owls return to the same sites. The migratory behaviors of these birds vary vastly according to their geographical range and they have not been tracked enough.
9.Snowy Owls underwent a massive migration irruption in 2011 and 2012!
The massive and widespread irruption undergone by Snowy Owls in 2011 and 2012, took them very far away from their normal range. During this period, Snowy Owl populations throughout the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts were significant, and these birds were spotted at all provinces in Southern Canada. It is said that Snowy Owl populations are an indicator of the health of their Arctic habitat, so such migration irruptions are troubling. Faced with enormous changes in their global climate, this species is susceptible to endangerment in the next few decades.
10.Their prey spectrum is larger during the winter!
During the winter, the diet of Snowy Owls includes over 100 prey. One study reported over 40 species of birds, 14 mammalian species, and a mussel. Some of the birds preyed on were seabirds, shorebirds, ducks, and geese. Amphibians, crustaceans, and beetles are prey that are usually avoided by Snowy Owls. Their diet can also be opportunistically focused on local prey.
Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes
At the Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.
- Kids Bird Watching Monthly Subscription$10.00 / month
- Kid & Adult Bird Watching Starter Pack Subscription$10.00 / month and a $72.00 sign-up fee
- Kids Bird Watching Starter Pack Subscription$10.00 / month and a $19.00 sign-up fee
Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Snowy Owls
The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing Snowy Owls are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.