The great white owl or the snowy owl (scientific name: Bubo scandiacus) is species of horned owl found in the Northern circumpolar regions. A snowy owl named, Hedwig starred in the Harry Potter movies series as Harry Potter’s owl. They are characterized by white feathers and small black spots. Read more interesting and cool facts about snowy owls in this article.
Appearance and behavior
Length: 52-71 cm
Weight: 2 – 3 Kg
Wingspan: 1.2 – 1.5 meters
Snowy owls are entirely white colored with yellow eyes and a black beak. Female owls and younger owls have some black spots on their plumage, while older male owls can be completely white.
They are the largest owl species in North America.
They cannot move their eyes and have to move their neck to see in all directions. They can rotate their necks to up to 270 degrees.
Snowy owls are solitary birds except during breeding months.
They have a heavy coat of feathers that also cover their legs. It helps protect them from the cold.
Diet and hunting
Their diet mostly includes small mammals like rats and, lemmings. They are opportunistic hunters and can also prey upon larger animals like hares, muskrats, squirrels and, raccoons. They may also hunt other birds such as ducks, geese, gulls, songbirds, coots and grouse.
One snowy owl can eat up to 7-12 mice a day.
Watch, wait and hunt
Snowy owls, unlike most owls, are not nocturnal. They are in fact, crepuscular, that is, they are more active during dusk and dawn.
They have excellent viewing abilities that allow them to see their prey from far away.
Their excellent hearing enables them to hear a prey moving under the ground. They are capable of detecting where exactly a sound came from.
They do not search for their prey but instead wait for it.
For catching a prey, they sit on spot alert while using their hearing and viewing abilities to spot the prey. They wait patiently until the right moment to attack the prey.
They can catch their prey mid-air or from the ground.
Where do Snowy owls live?
They build their nests on the ground with preference given to high mounds from where they can watch their prey.
Where to find Snowy owls
Snowy owls are found in the polar arctic regions of USA, Canada and, Eurasia. Due to its nomadic nature, it can also be found in the southern latitudes.
They have a tendency to face towards the sun, which might be associated with thermoregulation.
They migrate towards the south during winters while some snowy owls might continue to stay in the north. However, they still prefer regions that are not too warm, unlike other birds.
Reproduction and breeding season
Their breeding season occurs from month May to June. During this period they are extremely territorial. They aggressively chase away any intruders that seem like a thread to their eggs.
Females’ work is to hatch the eggs by sitting on them while males provide food for the hatchlings.
The parents take care of the chicks for 5-6 weeks, after which they learn to hunt for themselves.
Predators of Snowy owl
Their natural predators include fox, wolves, and wild dogs. They can also fall prey to human hunting.
Some more interesting facts about snowy owls
- They were first discovered in Scandinavia and that is why their species name has “scandiacus” in it.
- The snowy owl is an official bird of Quebec.
- They swallow their prey whole and digest the flesh with their strong digestive juices. They regurgitate the bones and bones as a pellet.
- They Harry Potter movies led to a surge in people adopting snowy owls. However, snowy owls are big birds that require a lot of space. They also bite very fiercely. This further led to many abandoned snowy owls in animal centers.