In the midst of a deep cold freeze in the north, what better animal is there to talk about than the majestic and beautiful Snowy Owl? They are found throughout the Arctic region during the northern summer. They breed in this northern zone and move south during the winter. Let's explore the lives of these stunning white owls.
They are large owls, one of the largest in the world and the heaviest species in North America. They are also the second heaviest in Europe, where the European Eagle Owl reigns supreme. The Snowy Owl displays sexual dimorphism, which means there are differences between the males and females. The females are, on average, slightly larger than the males. The males can have a wing span of between 1.2 and 1.6 m (3’ 10" to 5' 5"), whereas the females can have a wingspan of between 1.5 and 1.8 m (4' 10" to 6’). There are other differences too, like the coloration. The males are generally more white than the females, but both of them have flecks of brown in their plumage. They have other adaptations that help them thrive in their arctic home. For starters, they have feathered legs with which to keep their feet warm while standing in the snow. Generally, these birds seem to be most active during the day, which is different from many other owls. They are probably one of the most recognisable creatures in the world.
As mentioned already, they spend their summers in the arctic tundra, where they feed mainly on lemmings. During the winters, they spread out and move south, taking up much of Canada, Russia, and Scandinavia. During the winter, their food sources are more varied. They will eat small rodents and other birds like ptarmigans and partridges. They have also been known to take crustaceans and frogs on very rare occasions.
The adults lay their eggs in spring, but due to the short seasons in the far arctic where they breed, the young only start leaving the nest in early autumn. At this point, they are nearing the time when they have to head south for the winter. The young have dark grey or black coloration that slowly moults as they reach maturity.
The birds are nomadic and very rarely breed with the same partner twice. In one study in Alberta, females have been known to set up territories for short periods of time. It seemed like these territories lasted about 80 days, whereas the males are true nomads, never spending more than a couple of days in an area before moving on.