The snowy owl, often known as the Arctic owl, is a lovely and fascinating species. These owls, unlike many other species, can live in harsh winter conditions. It has a wider breeding and wintering range than any other owl.
In Arctic tundra regions near the North Pole, snowy owls live and breed. Owls can be found all throughout Canada and the northern United States during the winter. Other locations where snowy owls might overwinter include Scandinavia, the British Isles, and central Russia.
The snowy owl’s range is rare, and it provides few opportunities for the average observer. Although it’s difficult to see, this magnificent bird is visible. Read on to learn more about the snowy owl’s environment and where you may see one in the wild!
Where Do Snowy Owls Live?
Snowy Owls are a circumpolar species that live and breed in the far north of the world, near the North Pole. They are appropriately named. This species may be found in southern Canada and northern United States, as well as sections of Asia and Europe during the non-breeding season.
Snowy Owls, on the other hand, have been recorded to travel many kilometers outside of their usual range. Scientists believe that this occurrence is due to two distinct causes, which are known as irruption. When the lemmings’ and voles’ populations become really low, it’s possible that the Snowy Owl will eat them. These owls would be forced to explore farther and further in order to find food.
It’s also possible that the opposite is true. Owls may have extremely successful breeding seasons and produce a lot of young when prey populations are rather high. You know how many people generate a lot of rivalry when youngsters are scrimmaging around for sweets beneath a shattered piñata.
In order to find food and avoid competing with other owls, these owls will have to travel farther away in this case. Snowy Owls have been known to travel as far south as northern California, Texas, and Oklahoma when an irruption occurs. In reality, a snowy owl got as far as Hawaii in 2011!
Open areas with few trees are preferred by the Snowy Owl. They dwell in tundra and grasslands and open plains in the Arctic, as well.
How are is it to See a Snowy Owl?
Snowy owls are only found in the far Arctic tundra for a portion of their lives, hence it is extremely unusual to see one. Nevertheless, especially in Canada and the Northern United States, it is not difficult to locate one during their wintering ranges.
What is the Distribution Range of the Snowy Owl?
A circumpolar species, the snowy owl The northernmost sections surrounding the North Pole are where they may be found. During the breeding season, they may be found between 60 and 82 degrees latitude. The Aleutians, Coastal Alaska, the Canadian Arctic Islands, and northern sections of Canada’s Territories, such as Yukon and Quebec are among the areas in North America.
Greenland, the northernmost areas of other Scandinavian nations, and Russia are all part of the snowy owl breeding range in Europe and Asia. The United Kingdom’s Shetland Islands are also suspected of being their nesting grounds (at least historically).
The birds’ wintering grounds stretch south of where they normally breed, covering territory. Northern Continental Europe and Central Russia are also home to the snowy owl. In Iceland and the British Isles, they are also irregularly observed.
The snowy owl may journey far north in North America, particularly near the Great Lakes and southern Canada.
Snowy Owl Size and Wingspan
These birds are huge, and they may be seen from miles away. The snowy is the heaviest owl in North America, despite its light weight.
They are one of the most powerful owls in the United States, with a height of 2 1/2 feet, a wingspan of 5 feet, and an average weight of 4 to 5 pounds. They weigh a pound heavier than the great horned owl and twice as much as the big gray owl because of their extra body mass.
Why they need our help
The Snowy Owl is less likely to come into touch with humans than are many other raptors because of its habitat. Although Snowy Owls may be poisoned, shot, or run over by automobiles and power lines, this helps them avoid some of the hazards that other birds of prey face.
Only a handful of creatures hunt Snowy Owls, with foxes and wolves being the most common natural predators. When the owls are vulnerable sitting on or near their nests, however, only a few animals hunt them. Several guls will attempt to steal Snowy Owl eggs and hatchlings.
Snowy Owls have little to fear from predators in general. Climate change is one of the main dangers these lovely birds face.
Bats of prey are generally sensitive to changes in the environment, but the harsh, remote places where these owls live make them difficult to study. An rise in pesticides in the ecosystem, habitat loss, or a reduction in prey populations may all have an impact on their populations.
Several of these events may be linked to global warming. Many species and people may begin to migrate north as temperatures rise, with animals suited to severe cold conditions having fewer and fewerescape options.
Even for the Snowy Owl, a bird well-adapted to a cold and arid environment, living in the far north is extremely difficult. But, for this raptor, as well as all the other species that rely on the Arctic for survival, things may soon get much tougher.
The future of the Snowy Owl and many other arctic species may be in jeopardy as mean annual temperatures in the Arctic have increased by almost double the rate of global average temperatures. Arctic species require our help and support more than ever before.
What Do Snowy Owls Look Like?
Snowy owls are most recognized for their white plumage and feline-like yellow eyes, which feature distinct patterns with varying hues of brown to black and shapes.
Get a copy of Snowy Owl: A Visual Natural History for a stunning collection of snowy owl photographs and a personal story from photographer Paul Bannick.
Male and Female Snowy Owl
The appearance of males and femen differ. Female snowy owls are larger than males, as are most raptors. Females are the heaviest owls in North America, weighing up to 6.5 pounds.
Females, who become darker throughout their lives than males, are also more restricted by black. (Apologies to Harry Potter, but Hedwig was a male all along. An all-white snowy owl is almost generally always an older male.)
What they do
The eyes of this owl are bright yellow, with a coal-black beak and snowy white feathers that have black dots, lines, and striations etched in them.
The Snowy Owl has extremely tiny ear tufts, tiny feathers that stick out on both sides of its head, despite the fact that they must be examined quite closely to identify them. The feathers of juveniles are generally the most black. The deeper patterns are retained by adult females, while they are lost by males.
In any case, this species stands out in the owl kingdom due to its magnificent color scheme. When hunting in open terrain, this color scheme also aids these owls to blend in with their snowy environs, giving them even more “cover.” These owls are quite visible against a green or brown background when there is no snow.
The Snowy Owl, unlike most owls, actively hunts during the day, especially in the summer when days are exceptionally long.
The feathers cover the whole body of a snowy owl, as they do with many owls. The feathers on their legs and feet are more densely layered than those of other owls living in warmer climates because they live in high, cold regions. Without something warm on their feet, who would want to go outside in the cold? The feathers of these owls help keep them warm in a variety of ways.
Birds fly with the help of their feathers, of course. Since the air doesn’t make noise as it passes through the soft feathers, like other owls, the Snowy Owls’ flight feathers at both ends are extremely delicate and feathery.
This aids them in being stealthy hunters. It is critical that Snowy Owls’ prey doesn’t hear them approaching since they typically fly low over the ground while hunting!
Snowy Owls are no exception, as many owls use their exceptional hearing to locate prey. They dwell in places where the earth is often covered in snow, despite the fact that they use their acute vision to locate delicious food morsels. Several tiny animals tunnel their way beneath the snow unseen when this is the case. The Snowy Mountains are a large mountain range in Australia.
Owls are able to detect where prey is going with their acute hearing. Owls may detect a vole’s exact position, swoop down, and pluck it from the snow without ever seeing it! The rodent cannot see the approaching danger.
Snowy Owl Call and Sounds
As compared to their nocturnal cousins, snowy owls have a quieter hoot. Instead, their regal bearing is disrupted by simple, hoarse whoos or excitable squawks that do not seem to belong to them.
What does the snowy owl eat?
This predator’s diet includes arctic hares, ptarmigan, foxes, and seabirds. Lemmings, on the other hand, are their preferred food. To satisfy their food needs, snowy owls must capture seven to twelve mice every day. They swallow their smaller prey whole.
Snowy Owls have to eat a lot of lemmings, voles, and other tiny animals just to live since they adore eating them. A family of Snowy Owls may devour dozens of lemmings every day during their breeding season!
Snowy Owls, like other predators, are very opportunistic and will hunt practically anything that comes within their grasp. Other animals, such as squirrels and hares, as well as birds like ptarmigan and seabirds, have been known to be hunted by them. Owls will even eat fish, amphibians, crustaceans, and insects if they can locate them.
Several effective hunting tactics are used by snowy owls. They usually sit on posts, boulders, or the ground, quietly waiting for their next meal. They may spend a lot of time sitting and waiting. They may also fly low over the ground in search of food.
They swoop down on their prey as soon as they see something enticing moving along the ground. They grab their victim straight in the air or pluck them from the surface of the water when hunting birds or fish, respectively. When walking on the ground, they have been known to steal prey.
What is the habitat of a Snowy Owl?
The snowy owl lives in the Arctic tundra. Snowy owls will dwell in the tundra, wherever there is plenty of food, namely near lakes, rivers, and marshes. The birds prefer exposed, hilly tundra for nesting and perching. They often build nests near water, such as in the Arctic.
Snowy owls will move to tundra-like habitats in the winter. Open beaches, dunes, wetlands, grasslands, and even agricultural fields are all examples of such locations. In the Arctic, these birds may be seen wintering on sea ice.
Nest, eggs and young
The male’s responsibility is to attract a female before nesting even starts. The male will do so in a variety of ways, including when a female is present. He’ll demonstrate his aerobatic abilities by swooping in a low, rippling pattern that goes up and down.
He’ll bob and bow while ruffling up his feathers on the ground, performing an unusual “dance.” Ultimately, the males attempt to impress the females by capturing prey and bringing it to the female who catches their attention via their hunting skills.
It’s time to begin preparing their nest after a male and female have formed a pair. These large owls prefer to build their nests on the ground almost entirely. Instead of building nests, the female digs a little depression in the ground to lay her eggs.
The owls prefer nest sites because they are slightly elevated, providing them with a excellent view of potential threats.
Snowy Owls are aggressive around their nests, and any dangerous creatures, such as gulls, foxes, and even wolves, are scared away by the owls. Snowy Owls’ abilities to repel predators will be used by other bird species that nest nearby!
The female will lay her eggs after the nest is ready. Depending on how much food is available before and during the breeding season, she lays a certain number of eggs and produces a certain number of chicks.
Owls may lay several eggs in good years and none at all in bad years. In a single clutch, females may produce between 1 and 9 eggs. That’s a whole lot of eggs, isn’t it? The female will sit on the eggs for 31-33 days after they have been laid to keep them warm.
The male’s responsibility at this time is to provide food for himself and the female. The male will have a lot of mouths to feed after the chicks hatch.
Each egg is typically laid by the female two to five days apart. When the first egg is deposited, she begins incubation, and the embryo starts to develop right away. As a consequence, siblings may be of various ages and sizes since the young owlets emerge at different times.
Since the chicks don’t have to fly to leave the nest, snowy owls prefer to nest on the ground, making it much simpler for them. They don’t learn to fly properly until they’re around 8 weeks old, and they usually begin leaving the nest at 3-4 weeks.
Until the young owls are able to hunt and survive on their own, the parents will care for them for around 4 months. These juvenile will be able to look for a spouse, settle down, and raise kid after two years.
Baby Snowy Owl
The parenting responsibilities of snowy owls are divided. The father delivers food to keep everyone nourished while a snowy owl mother is occupied with the nestlings. He might leave a massive collection of dead lemmings and other rodents around the nest for mother and the baby owlets if it’s been a particularly excellent year.