Birder’s Notebook; Snowy Owl

Birder’s Notebook by Bob Andrini: 17 December Entry  Probably one of the most easily recognized owls around the world is the snowy owl. Several snowy owls have been reported around our area already this year, so let’s take a closer look at these amazing birds.

The scientific name for the snowy owl is Nyctea scandiacus: Nyctea is from the Greek meaning ‘of the night’; and scandiacus is from modern Latin meaning ‘of Scandinavia’ for its natural range. Many snowy owls will show up in ‘irruptive’ years – when their prey species populations crash, and the owls must come south to find food – another reason might be due to overabundant reproduction and the need for birds to come south to get food.

Most of the birds seen are the darker females and young males – maybe it’s just harder to see a snow-white male. Usually we find them sitting on the ground in a field, but we have also found them on a TV antenna and telephone poles. As can be seen in one of these pictures, their feet are well adapted to their snowy/cold habitat by having feathers not only down to their feet, but also surrounding their talons (picture taken at Field Museum). Females are larger than males, and both show bright yellow eyes.

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