The Snowy owl’s bold, pale plumage is perfectly adapted to suit its life in snowy regions, as well as making it almost instantly recognisable. And we’re all familiar with Hedwig, Harry Potter’s loyal and dedicated animal companion! But the Snowy owl isn’t quite like other owls…
Here’s 5 surprising facts about Snowy Owls
What they eat
Snowy Owls are predatory, mostly enjoying a diet of small mammals. Lemmings are a great favourite of theirs, so much so that an individual owl may consume as many as 1600 lemmings per year! Other small rodents, such as ground squirrels and rats, are also eaten. In times of food scarcity, the Snowy owl will also eat other birds such as pheasants, gulls and grouse. The Snowy owl has also been known to prey upon other owls when food is particularly scarce.
Keen on being clean
Like other owls, the Snowy swallows prey whole. An owl’s stomach is designed to digest prey, after which ‘pellets’ of bone and fur are regurgitated by the owl. Larger mammals consumed by the Snowy owl will be broken down into smaller pieces for the owl to eat. This process can get messy but the fastidious Snowy owl will wash its face in the snow to keep its snowy plumage pristine.
An easy way to tell the males from the females is plumage – male Snowy Owls are definitely the snowiest of the two, with the female having darker feathers spotted throughout her plumage. Young snowy owls have spots of darker plumage, too. Their mass of feathers also contributes to their overall weight, with females weighing up to 6 lbs. Snowy owls have an abundance of feathers on their feet, an obvious necessity in an environment such as the Arctic circle. These cute slipper-like feet undoubtedly help the Snowy owl survive temperatures as low as 40 below zero.
They nest on the ground
Unlike other owls, Snowy Owls build their nests on the ground. They like a high point, with good visibility, and often use nests that have been abandoned by eagles. As many as 11 eggs may be laid, although these don’t hatch simultaneously. Both the male and female Snowy owl defend the nest and provide for their young.
Definitely not night owls!
These magnificent birds also differ from other owls in one other aspect – they like the daytime! Most owl species are nocturnal, hunting and flying at night and resting through the day, but the Snowy owl appears to enjoy the sunshine, especially through the summer months.