Snowy Owl: The Physical Characteristics

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The snowy owl, the official bird of Quebec, has many names, including snow owl, Arctic owl, tundra ghost and Scandinavian night bird. It was first classified in 1758 by a Swedish naturalist named Carolus Linnaeus, who was also the first person to use bionomical nomenclature to classify animals and plants.

Description

  • The snowy owl is the largest owl species in North America. It is a white owl with a rounded head, yellow eyes and a black bill. Adult male snowy owls often have pure white bodies, whereas adult females have horizontal black and brown stripes on their bodies and four to six tail bands. Young snowy owls are even more heavily striped, and may appear to have dark spotting from a distance.

Size

  • The average snowy owl is 20 to 27 inches long and has a wingspan of 54 to 65 inches. The average male snowy owl is 23 inches long and the average female is 26 inches long. The average male weighs 57 ounces and the average female weighs 60 ounces.

Voice

  • The male snowy owl has a raspy, grating call, and the female has a higher pitched call. In breeding season, the male call becomes more booming to attract females. The female attack call is guttural, and other common sounds from both genders include cackles, shrieks, hissing and the snapping of their bills.

Hunting

  • Snowy owls are carnivores that subsist on a diet that includes other birds, amphibians, crustaceans, insects and small mammals such as rabbits, prairie dogs, rats, moles and hares. Unlike the majority of owl species, snowy owls are diurnal -- active during the day and night. Hunting style is dependent on the prey, but includes flying down from a high perch, attacking other birds in midair and swooping down to the surface of bodies of water to snatch fish up with their talons.

References

  • Photo Credit NA/AbleStock.com/Getty Images
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