Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)
The Arctic is a harsh environment and most birds that travel to this harsh environment do so in summer to breed, and then migrate back home. The Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus), Ptarmigan and the snow bunting are some of the few arctic birds that will live there all year round on the snowy tundra. It is not often that the snowy owl will move away from the arctic unless there is a particularly bad winter and their food is scarce. In that case they will leave the arctic and winter in northern Greenland, northern Eurasia, Canadian islands, Wrangel Islands and in North America.
Their name comes from their coloring, which is basically pure white when they are fully grown adults but will change in the summer to a brown with dark stripes and spots. Due to the icy cold environment that they stay in, the birds’ feet have extra thick pads and are covered with feathers to keep them warm. They are one of the largest owl species standing up to 27 inches high, with a wingspan of 45 to 60 inches.
Like other species of owls the Snowy owl has amazing day and night vision, allowing them to see their prey high up in the sky, from where they will swoop down silently and capture it. When the owl catches its prey it will either swallow it whole or it will tear it into big pieces and swallow. They eat hares, voles, lemmings and shrews and will sometimes eat small birds. During spring they will add eggs from swans and waterfowl to their diet.
When the female Snowy owl makes a nest she will stay on the 8 to 10 eggs while the male owl goes out to hunt for food for the both of them as well as protecting her from any danger. Once the owlets are born both the female and male will go out to search for food and at eight weeks of age the owlets will be ready to leave home. It is important that the owlets become independent quickly because the summer months are short and if they cannot look after themselves they will not survive the long icy cold winters.