Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl
 The snowy owl is a raptor of the northern tundra. They are circumpolar, nesting in northern portions of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Europe and Asia. During the winter many of the adult snowy owls will stay on their nesting territory however many young birds may head south to southern Canada, the northern US, and central portions of Europe and Asia. They are the largest owl species, by weight, in North America and one of the largest in Europe and Asia.
Snowy Owl Female
Young birds can be identified by their black barring. The barring is usually darker on the females then on the males. As they age the barring fades until adult males are almost pure white. Hedwig, from harry Potter fame is actually a series of male snowy owls. Females often retain some of the barring even as adults. Since some males are darker then normal and some female lighter it is best to use the size of the bib under the head to determine between the sexes. This bird has a small bib so it is most likely female. The other owl  in these photos has a bib that extends half way down its chest so it is probably a male.
Snowy Owl in Flight
Snowy owls are more diurnal then most owls.It makes sense that they would have to be active during daytime hours during the nesting season, which runs from may through September. During the summer daylight can stretch to over 20 hours per day. Birds that stay on the nesting territory during the winter would have to switch to nocturnal hunting because of lack of daylight during the winter. The primary prey of the snowy owl are lemmings. They will also eat other small mammals as well as ptarmigan and water fowl. 
Snowy Owl Landing
Occasionally there are mass eruptions of snowy owls down into Europe, Asia, or the United States. These typically occur because of a lack of food in their tundra territories. this lack of food can be caused by a bad year for the prey species, such as a decline in the lemming population due to disease, or it can be caused by a particularly good breeding season. as a ground nesting bird snowy owls can lay up to 11 eggs in a clutch. most years a snowy pair can not support that many chicks and some do not make it. On a good year where there is plenty of prey during the breeding season more chicks survive and when it comes time for them to go out on their own in the winter many head south to find food. This past winter was a huge snowy eruption in the US. Snowies were seen all the way down in Florida. Most of the snowies that I spotted were immature birds which suggests that it was a good breeding year for snowies. Unfortunately many of the snowies that came south will never make it back.


16 comments:

Roger Owen Green said...

Great, but somewhat scary bird.
ROG, ABCW

Carole M. said...

how very special to see...

Margaret Adamson said...

WOW! These shots are fantastic. How wonderful to be able to see them.

i stora drag said...

Amazing! Fantastic photos to of the snowy owl!
Greetings Pia in Sweden

Carver said...

They are such beautiful birds and you captured them so well in these photographs. Carver, ABCW-Team

Kate said...

Gorgeous birds and gorgeous photos.

SamuraiFrog said...

This is a bird I've always wanted to see in the wild. Lovely, lovely pictures.

Marie said...

GORGEOUS! And SOOO interesting! Thanks so much for all the info.

Cristina Pop said...

I didn`t know there were snowy owls!
They look so cute! Great pics

Lina Gustina said...

Admire your shots. Awesome kind of bird!

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Jim said...

Beautiful shots

Gemma Wiseman said...

There is a sense of grandeur in every pose of this beautiful bird. Gorgeous photos.

Felicia said...

Absolutely gorgeous captures.

Kay L. Davies said...

So beautiful. Great photos.
Interesting information, too. Eleven eggs...wow!
K

Dave said...

its an iconic bird, in my eyes one of the greatest birds on the planet and you are a very lucky man to be getting views and images such as these..... rather jealous!

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