Resident Raptor - Snowy Owl
Archimedes This male snowy owl was
hatched in the 2000 in a captive breeding program. Like other
northern species of raptors, these birds have proven to be very
susceptible to West Nile Virus, resulting in their loss at a number of
zoos and nature centers, as well as breeding facilities, over the last few
years. This bird was placed in a breeding program in Pennsylvania, but
they were never able to find a female, so he was sent to CRC in February
2006 as an education bird.
Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiaca formerly Nyctea scandiaca)
A large owl found circumpolar in the northern hemisphere. Similar in size to the Great
Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus), the plumage of the snowy owl is
primarily white. Males have some light barring or spots of dusky
brown. Females and juvenile owls show much more brown barring and spots with
some females having only the face and back of neck pure white. Females are
significantly larger than males. The ear tufts of this owl are
indistinguishable but present.
The eyes seem
small for an owl but the brilliant golden irises are striking against the
white plumage. The beak and talons are dark in color with long, white
feathers nearly covering both. The feathers of the snowy owl are incredibly
insulative for the extreme weather conditions of the artic. This species has
both extremely acute vision and hearing. Often seen hunting during daylight,
this species can visually locate prey at great distances. But excellent
hearing allows the snowy owl to acoustically locate prey through deep snow.
This species is mostly crepuscular.
||20 - 27"
||20 - 27"
||55 - 66"
||55 - 66"
||58.5 oz. ave.
||61.5 oz. ave.
Status - The snowy owl is both state
and federally protected. The numbers of birds in the wild are not well known
due to their extreme habitat but centuries of taking these birds as trophies
and as food items has decreased their numbers.
Habitat - Open artic terrain from tree line to the polar seas. Prefers
high rolling tundra with numerous promontories for perching and nest sites.
Areas chosen as habitat by the snowy owl are often more vegetated than
surrounding areas due to the additional nitrogen added to the soil by the
birds. Habitat choice seems primarily based on prey availability.
Diet - Diet consists of lemmings, voles and other small rodents to
mammals as large as hares but will also take medium size song birds to
medium size geese. Ptarmigan and other open country birds will be targeted
as well, especially when plentiful. Snowy owls often pursue prey in a
strong, steady flight but they are also known to pounce on prey from
Call - Males are more vocal than females. Call a deep and muffled hoot brooo which is
often repeated in a series. When threatened makes a quock, quawk.
Females sometimes whistle or make a mewing sound.
Nesting - Nests on bare ground in shallow
holes from sea level to an elevation of less than 300m. These owls prefer a
prominent spot with view of their surroundings that is often times windy but
snow free. Studies have shown that snow free nest spots correlate highly
with nest success for this species. Often prey species will be abundant in
the nest site area.
Most Common Problems - This species faces human persecution
in most of its range. Humans have been shooting and trapping this species
for food and for trophy hunting for centuries. During migration they face
threat from hitting cars, electrocution and airplane strike, as one of their
favored haunts is the open terrain around airports.