You might have heard about Snow Owls in the legend the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole. There are much more to know about this incredible Avian. Read on!

Facts About Snowy Owl

Hedwig, Harry Porter’s famous pet owl, may be the most renowned Snowy Owl but what Hedwig does is not it. There are many amazing facts to know about this bird. Adorned with pure white plumage, the name ‘snowy owl’ is just perfect for this Arctic bird. You may be surprised to know that these birds do not have night vision, an important feature of the owl family (Strigidae)! Completely carnivorous, these nomadic birds hunt small animals and birds during day time and feed primarily on lemmings. You may spot them perching patiently on grounds or short posts, waiting for their quarry. One of the largest species of owls, a snowy owl grows to about 15-150cm in length and weighs about 1.6-3kg. Though primarily found in the northern circumpolar region, these owls are sometimes spotted in other parts of the world as they migrate in search of food. Learn more facts about snow owls from this article.
Fast Facts
Type: Birds
Class: Aves
Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae
Genus: Bubo
Origin: Northern Circumpolar region
Diet: Carnivorous
Size: 52-150cm (20-28 in)
Weight: 1.6-3 kg (3.5-6.6 lb)
Lifespan: about 9.5 years
Habitat: Tundra
Breeding Time: May
Number of eggs laid per brood: 3-11 eggs
Hatching Period: 32 days
Interesting And Fun Facts About Snowy Owl
  • Snowy owls are also called ‘Arctic Owls’ or ‘Great White Owls’, ‘Ghost Owls’ ‘Ermine Owls’, ‘Ookpiks’, ‘Scandinavian Night Birds’, ‘Highland Tundra Owls’, ‘Harfangs’ ‘White Owls’, ‘Tundra Ghosts’ and ‘American Snowy Owls’.
  • The white plumage is apt for camouflage in the snowy white Arctic habitat. They sometimes migrate to South Canada, Europe, Asia and northern USA.
  • The migration happens when the lemming population in the Arctic regions reduces and it is then that these birds migrate to other places in search of food.
  • Males become whiter as they grow older. Females are darker than males; they have spots all over and never become pure white. So, whenever you spot a pure white snow owl, infer that it is a male.
  • While flying, their wings show characteristic powerful downstroke and quick upstroke.
  • Snowy owls have black beaks and yellow eyes. Their feet are thickly covered with feathers.
  • The white color of the fur is due to the lack of pigments. This forms not only excellent camouflage adaptation, but also allows more air to enter and keep their body warm.
  • Snow owls have a keen hearing and sharp eyesight which make them excellent hunters. They can wait patiently for long time for their prey and can even spot it under thick vegetation or snow. Once spotted, the prey is then deftly snatched by their sharp claws.
  • Lemmings are the favorite food of Snow Owls. A single snow owl consumes more than 1600 lemmings a year. Other nutriments include rodents, birds, rabbit, fish, prairie dogs, squirrels, marmots etc.
  • Like other avian members, snow owls too swallow their prey which is then digested with the help of strong digestive juices. Obviously, only flesh is digested while the indigestible parts like bones, teeth, feathers and fur are regurgitated in the form of pellets. Dozens of pellets are regurgitated during perches. However, these pellets aren’t produced if large preys are consumed in small pieces.
  • Snowy owls have different types of calls, though they are relatively quiet. Their alarm call is called barking! The males clap their beaks as a response to the threats. Interestingly though, it is believed that the clapping sound is actually made with the tongue, not with the beak.
  • Snowy owls are monogamous. Their courtship begins during mid-winter, usually away from the breeding areas. The males generally bow while on ground, fluff their feathers and strut around with wings spread to attract the females.
  • Snowy owls breed in Arctic tundra during May and a female lays about 3-11 eggs. The size of the clutch depends upon the availability of food. The incubation period is 32 days.
  • Parent snow owls are fiercely defensive and are always vigilant and prepared to fight any animals which they see as threats to their young ones. They are highly territorial birds and the nests are made on ground. They may sometimes use abandoned eagle nests also for their nesting purposes.
  • The females never leave the eggs; they sit on their eggs until they hatch. During the entire hatching period, the male feeds his female.
  • The hatchlings have a soft white down and, slowly, new brown feathers replace the down.
  • Young snow owls leave the nest in 25-26 days. However, they cannot fly until they are about a month and a half old. The young hatchlings are usually fed by their parents for about five weeks, even after leaving the nest.
  • The common predators of young owls are arctic foxes, dogs, jaegers, grey wolves, avian predators etc. Both male and female members attack the approaching enemy ferociously.
  • The biggest threat faced by the snowy owls is not their predators, but the climate change. They are worst affected by the changing temperature which affects their habitat and diet. Reports say that these owls are poached for their eyes and feet.
  • Snowy owl is the official bird of Quebac.

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