Snowy Owl Information

A concise write-up on the snowy owl species native to the Arctic region, with reference to its natural habitat, appearance, diet, hunting, and - last, but the most important - its survival adaptations.
The snowy owl, also referred to as the Arctic owl or the Great white owl, is a large diurnal owl, typically characterized by its large yellow eyes and sharp black bill. The scientific name of this owl species is Bubo scandiacus. Though this bird has been a delight for birdwatching enthusiasts for quite some time now, not much was known about this bird until recently. Some facts about this bird, particularly related to its adaptation and hunting skills, has been brought to light by recent studies, and this has just added to the fame of this bird, which boasts of being the heaviest among the owls found in North America.

Interesting Information about the Snowy Owl

Given below is a compilation of some of the basic, yet fascinating facts about the snowy owl, owing to which it is considered 'a delight for bird watching enthusiasts'.

Habitat: The geographical range of the snowy owl spans over several countries near the Arctic circle, including Greenland, Iceland, Canada and, to some extent, even the USA. Generally, snowy owl habitat spans over the cold regions near the Arctic circle, which are typically characterized by scarce vegetation and dense snow cover. However, individuals have also been noticed in relatively warmer regions of the United States, such as Texas and Tennessee, during winter. These birds are believed to fly down to these warmer regions when food becomes scarce in their natural habitat in winter.

Appearance: The appearance of a snowy owl has striking resemblance to its natural habitat. It generally sports a white plumage, with some black spots or lines all over the body. The markings are much more prominent in females and young ones, than in adult males. The bird is covered with feathers up to its feet, which is an important adaptation for cold climate of the Arctic region.

Size and Weight: A snowy owl can grow up to a length of 20-27 inches, and generally sports a wingspan of 54-65 inches, which is almost double its length. The average length for adult males is 23 inches, while the same for adult females is 26 inches. On an average, an adult snowy owl may weigh anywhere between 40-70 Oz, with average weight for adult males being 57 Oz, and for adult females being 60 Oz.

Adaptations: Animals thriving in the cold conditions of the Arctic region have superb adaptation skills, and the snowy owl is no exception. The appearance, which happens to be one of the most important adaptations of the snowy owl, helps it to camouflage and stay out the reach of lurking predators. Its thick plumage and feathered feet help it to survive the freezing temperatures. This is again an important adaptation considering that the snowy owl prefers to dwell in holes on the ground. Other adaptations include large eyes for better vision, sharp claws for hunting, serrated feathers for flight etc.

Hunting and Diet: One of the important components of the Tundra food chain, snowy owls are opportunistic hunters which feed on a range of animals they come across in this their natural habitat. Though their diet most often consist of lemmings and rodents, they also eat larger animals such as musk rats, prairie dogs, rabbits, foxes, dogs etc. They also tend to feed on birds like grouse, geese and ducks. In case of food scarcity snowy owls are known to resort to fish and carrion as well. Their modified digestive system helps them to swallow their prey full, and the bones and feathers of the prey are regurgitated after some time.

Since its first classification by Carolus Linnaeus in 1758, ornithologists have come up with several facts about this species which have made it one of the most amazing member of kingdom Animalia. When it comes to the snowy owl, information like its adaptation to the cold regions and its behavior has always been a subject of fascination for ornithologists and amateur bird watching enthusiasts alike.
By Abhijit Naik
Published: 4/21/2010
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