Snowy Owl

bubo scandiacus

The snowy owl is another popular bird of prey, partly due to its beautiful plumage, but also latterly as the pet owl of Harry Potter, "Hedwig". They are a large owl, closely related to other large owls such as the great horned owl of North America and the European and Eurasian eagle owls - in fact, they are on average the heaviest owl species in North America, and one of the largest throughout the world. Their wingspan can be 1.5m (5ft). Both males and females are white with black spotting when young, but as they mature, the males lose much of the dark colouring and can become almost totally white.

Temperatures in their habitats can fall to -50⁰C; they are found predominantly within the Arctic Circle, although will migrate south during times when food is particularly scarce. In Britain they are classed as a rare winter visitor to Shetland the Outer Hebrides Islands and the north of Scotland. Snowy owls have very short tails, this is due to the fact that they are ground nesting birds. In fact, on the arctic tundra, it is actually too cold for trees to grow in many parts. The nests are usually made when the female makes a scraping in the ground or they may nest on a rock or other place affording good visibility of the surrounding area.

The plumage of the snowy owl extends right down to their feet - feathery feet help to keep them warm alongside the covering of feathers which trap a layer of warm air close to the skin.

Breeding is usually in May and June when food is more plentiful and 3-11 eggs may be laid. The young are cared for by both parents who will feed the young and vigorously defend the nest, either by directly "dive-bombing" a potential predator, or by creating a distraction to draw attention away from the nest. Predators can include polar bears, wolves, wolverines, arctic foxes and other birds such as eagles, gyr falcons, other large owls, corvids (the crow family) and in coastal areas gulls and jaegers. Being such a large owl, they are very well equipped to defend themselves

 

Snowy owls predate (catch and feed on) small mammals such as lemmings but will also catch most available mammals up to the size of a raccoon including rabbits, hares and squirrels. They may also catch juvenile ptarmigan and are opportunistic due to the harsh climate. As with all owls, their hearing is exceptional, being able to locate prey covered under the snow, while in flight.

 

In 2017, the conservation status of the snowy owl was upgraded to "vulnerable" with an estimated population of just 28,000 individuals throughout the world.

Our Snowy owl "Bobby" was born in May 2016 and started off life as a "house owl" as one of his wings didn't form properly in the egg. After some physiotherapy, he has leaned be able to fly a bit, but isn't keen to do so; his T-Rex style running about would bring a smile to our faces every time!!!