Hedwig’s debut in the “Harry Potter” films, has placed the Snowy Owl high up on our list of enchanting creatures. But as magical as they are, these birds are fearsome predators and are always on the hunt for their favourite meal. Keep on reading to learn 25 facts about Snowy Owls.
Fact 1: The Snowy Owl is a member of the ‘white owl’ family, and it’s known for its pure white plumage.
- Snowy Owls are native to the Arctic regions in North America and Eurasia.
Fact 2: Male Snowy Owls are almost all white, while females have flecks of black plumage on their bodies.
- Baby Snowy Owls are born with black fathers that eventually turn white as they mature.
Fact 3: Snowy Owls are ground nesters.
- These birds mainly prey on rodents and waterfowl, and occasionally carrion.
Fact 4: Unlike other owls, Snowy Owls are not nocturnal, and can be seen hunting any time of the day and/or night.
- Snowy Owls are particularly active during the day during the summertime.
Fact 5: They have bristles on their beaks that aid them in sensing nearby objects.
- A Snowy Owl’s beak is hooked and is almost covered in feathers. It mainly uses its beak for gripping prey and tearing flesh apart.
Fact 6: A Snowy Owl has thick down feathers to keep itself warm in the cold arctic temperatures.
- The bird’s thick feathers also make it one of the heaviest owl species in North America. In fact, they’re a pound heavier than a Great Horned Owl and are double the weight of a Great Grey Owl.
Fact 7: During the mating season Snowy Owls will travel miles to find a partner.
- They can be spotted in the western Aleutians in Alaska, northeastern Manitoba, northern Quebec and northern Labrador in Canada.
Fact 8: Humans are the biggest predators of the Snowy Owl.
- Due to their delightful appearance, they are hunted and then mounted as trophies by humans.
Fact 9: They will follow lemmings everywhere.
- Although Snowy Owls do eat hares, rodents and other small animals, they have a special place in their stomach for lemmings. In fact, local Snowy Owl populations tend to rise and fall with that of the lemming’s population.
Fact 10: Snowy Owl calls are varied, but the alarm call is a barking, almost quacking “krek-krek” sound.
- Females also have a softer mewling “pyee-pyee” or “prek-prek” call.
Fact 11: They have their own winter “boots”.
- To keep their feet warm, and to provide more insulation in freezing conditions in the Arctic, the Snowy Owl’s feet are covered in feathers.
Fact 12: Snowy Owls prefer treeless, open spaces.
- Their natural habitat, and preferred feeding grounds are tundras, planes, beach dunes and even airport fields, mainly because Snowy Owls tend to sit on the ground to hunt.
Fact 13: Snowy Owls are feisty birds.
- When it comes to defending their territory, Snowy Owls can be aggressive. Size definitely doesn’t deter them since they’re known to divebomb humans and attack Arctic Wolves when they feel threatened.
Fact 14: They have very good eyesight and hearing.
- Much like their other owl cousins, Snowy Owls have excellent eyesight. But since their meals are buried underneath thick snow, Snowy Owls have evolved to have fantastic hearing to aid them on their food hunt.
Fact 15: They tend to use the same nesting site for years.
- Snowy Owls build their nests on the tundra, using their bodies to shape and hollow out their homes. The male selects the territory, while the female selects the site within.
Fact 16: They mate for life.
- Breeding occurs in May to June, and depending on the amount of prey available, clutch sizes range from 3 to 11 eggs.
Fact 17: Harry’s owl Hedwig, in the “Harry Potter” films, is played by a Snowy Owl.
- Although the character is female, male owls were used because only males are completely white.
Fact 18: Their impressive wingspan makes them stealthy hunters.
- The owls can stretch their wings up to around 5 feet, this allows Snowy Owls to sneak up on their prey silently without flapping their wings.
Fact 19: When it comes to hunting their favourite meal, Snowy Owls can be very patient, often spending hours sitting in one spot in the snow. But they then swallow their prey in one single gulp.
- This is likely to be because they want to get away from potential predators as quickly as possible.
Fact 20: Baby Snowy Owls are sometimes referred to as ‘Juvenile Snowy Owls’.
- They leave their nests at about 25 days old.
Fact 21: They are Quebec’s official bird.
- The Snowy Owl was in the running to be Canada’s national bird in 2016, because people said that the bird can be found across Canada, throughout the year, and that it was well-suited for the harsh Canadian winters.
Fact 22: Snowy Owls defend their nests against Arctic foxes, Corvids and swift-flying Jaegers, as well as dogs, Grey Wolves, and flying predators.
- Males defend the nest by standing guard nearby, and the female incubates the eggs and watches over the young.
Fact 23: Snowy Owls, like other carnivorous birds, swallow their small prey whole.
- Strong stomach juices digest the flesh, while the indigestible bones, teeth, fur, and feathers are compacted into pellets that the bird regurgitates 18 to 24 hours after feeding.
Fact 24: There are fewer than 30,000 Snowy Owls left in the wild.
- The Snowy Owl was placed under the vulnerable animal staus in 2017.
Fact 25: An adult Snowy Owl can gobble up to 1,600 lemmings each year.
- A lemming is a small rodent, usually found in/near the Arctic, in tundra biomes.