The Snowy owl or polar owl is native to the Arctic regions of both North America and the Palearctic. It is a beauty to behold with its thick white feathers and brownish spots. Depending on the sex, the feathers have varying amounts of brownish marks on the body and wings. The males are generally whiter than the females. This is intentional as these are ground-loving birds. They make their nests on the ground and so the female’s feathers have to camouflage well with the ground. They have a striking appearance with piercing yellow eyes and smoothly rounded heads and no ear tufts.
Thanks to the thick feathers, the snowy owl can weigh up to 4 pounds. It can grow up to 28 inches and some may weigh up to 6.5 pounds. The female snowy owl is generally larger than the male one by about 2 feet. So, how big a snowy owl will first and foremost depend on the gender.
Snowy Owls Diet?
Snowy owls are carnivorous. They have a special love for Lemmings and voles. An adult snowy owl can consume well over 1,600 lemmings annually. However, the number of lemming population fluctuates year on year. This means that what do snowy owls eat will largely depend on the food available to them. To supplement the lemmings feast, they also enjoy eating hares, squirrels, chicks of wading birds, rabbits, and fish.
They may also enjoy crustaceans, insects, weasels, grebes, waterfowls, ptarmigan, and some amphibians.
Regardless of available food, the snowy owl will perch near the ground on a post, rock, or tundra and lay in wait for its prey. Occasionally it may fly low over the ground and watch or listen for its prey.
Thanks to good eyesight and its splendid hearing, the snowy owl will successfully hunt for its food most times.
Quick facts about the snowy owl
- They have an estimated population of 200,000.
- Males get whiter as they grow older.
- Females are darker and carry more spots than the males.
- They are patient hunters. They will patiently perch in wait for their prey before pursuing.
- They enjoy feasting on lemmings.
- They have thick feathers. Even the feet are covered for added insulation against the cold Arctic climate.
- They are diurnal as they hunt during the day, unlike most owls which are nocturnal.
- They have an interesting wingspan of 4-5 feet on average.
- The female snowy owls are larger than their male counterparts.
- You will generally find them hunting in open spaces such as the tundra, fields, beach dunes, or planes.
- After about three weeks, the snowy owl is ready to leave its nest. It will toddle about until it’s ready to fly (another month). The parents will continue feeding it until 10 weeks of age.
- They have excellent distance eyesight and a remarkable sense of hearing which come in handy when hunting.
- They can be aggressive in self-defense. They won’t care if it’s a human or an Artic wolf that has evaded their territory. They will have no trouble dive-bombing a human.
- They nest directly on the ground.
- They have an average lifespan of 10 years.
- Breeding will depend on food availability. The female can lay a clutch of 3-11 eggs.
- They stay close to the ground while in flight.