The Snowy Owl of New York

Snowy Owl ( bubo scandiacus )

This owl is a favorite among birders and non-birders alike because of it's beautiful white plumage and cat-like yellow eyes. The males are much whiter than their female counterparts which are more heavily barred throughout their body. They can be seen regularly in New York during the winter months. It is the heaviest of all North American owls mostly due to it's thick, heavily insulated feathers needed for winter. They are a large owl, standing nearly 2 feet tall with as much as a 5 1/2 foot wingspan.

What Do They Eat

Unlike other owls they are not just night hunters, but will hunt from dawn until dusk. They feed primarily on small mammals like lemming and voles. There diet can include rabbits, hares, squirrels, weasels, and birds. Because of it's great agility this owl is able to snatch up even small birds on the fly. They will perch for hours at a time patiently waiting for prey.

Nesting & Breeding

They are extremely territorial in their breeding areas and will defend it fiercely. While males select the area for nesting, females select the actual nest site and dig out a hollow on the ground. An open slightly windy site on higher ground is preferable, where the wind can clear away snow and keep the nest dry. Females will have a clutch of 3-11 eggs depending on available food. Eggs will incubate for about 32 days. Hatchlings remain in the nest another 20-30 days before leaving and learn to master flight between 35-50 days after hatching. During this time and for about 10 weeks after they are cared for by their parents.

Snowy Owl Facts

  1. During hot weather, they will regulate their body temperature by panting and spreading their wings.
  2. Lemmings are their favorite meal and each owl can eat as many as 1600 of them in a year.
  3. Males get whiter as they age. Some elder male owls are almost entirely white.

Photos by Dave Larnerd

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