Snowy owls live up to nine years and, as their name suggests, their fur is snow white—but only sometimes. These resourceful creatures rely on smart mating habits to survive as a species.
The snowy owl’s scientific name is
. White down feathers protect baby snowy owls at birth. Whereas older female snowy owls have light brown feathers and darker marks, the plumage of male snowy owls turns whiter as they grow older.
The snowy owl originally lived in the Arctic but now also calls North America, Iceland, and Russia home. These owls nest in tundra, treeless and empty areas, and grasslands.
Snowy owls have amazing eyesight but often rely on their sharp hearing to catch prey. They are mainly carnivores and do not necessarily eat plants. The snowy owl’s favorite food is lemmings, which are tiny, mouse-like rodents. To nourish themselves, snowy owls sit on short poles or on the ground and watch silently for prey like fish, birds, rabbits, and small rodents. They also fly low to the ground to snatch up prey with their long, keen claws.
In contrast to other owls who are nocturnal and hunt at night, the snowy owl is energetic throughout the daytime, especially during the summer. They tend to be most active at sunrise and twilight.
Female snowy owls lay between three to 11 eggs at one time in nests they build on the ground. They are very smart animals because they typically only lay eggs when plenty of food is available. If there is not enough prey nearby for baby owls to eat, the female will not lay any eggs. When she does lay eggs, she sits on top of them to keep them warm and safe. Her male partner hunts and brings her food while she nests.
After a month of nesting, the baby snow owls hatch. They abandon their nests about half a month after they are born and start to fly well at about six weeks. Snowy owls generally care for their young until they are at least 10 weeks old.
Snowy owls have fascinating lives. They are definitely an intelligent and special species!
National Geographic Kids