The Whisker Chronicles

Whiskers are also known as vibrissa, from the latin vibrare "to vibrate". Vibrissa are the specialized hairs on mammals and the bristlelike feathers near the mouths of many birds. Their resonant design is symbolic of the energies, good and bad, that are reverberating throughout the natural world. Every living thing is connected and, by birthright, deserves to exist.

Day One of Twelve Days of Arctic Animals: Snowy Owl

Immature Male Snowy Owl.   Photo obtained at http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/snowy_owl/id © Trish Sweet, AB, Calgary, January 2011.

Immature Male Snowy Owl.
Photo obtained at http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/snowy_owl/id
© Trish Sweet, AB, Calgary, January 2011.

Scientific Name: Nyctea scandiaca or Bubo scandiacus

“Nyctea” is Greek for nocturnal (most owls are nocturnal but snowy owls are not), “scandiaca” is Latin and an ancient name for the southern part of Sweden. Snowy owls were scientifically named by the Swedish naturalist, Carolus Linneaus. There is debate over whether they are genetically related to horned owls, hence the alternative scientific name of Bubo scandiacus.

Where Snowy Owls Live:

Open tundra, usually lowland salt grass meadows and poorly drained freshwater wet meadows, especially for hunting. When food is scarce, snowy owls travel south to warmer climates in winter. In the south, they are frequently seen in urban areas, as well as in marshes and on dunes. In 2013, snowy owls are traveling very far south and have even been sighted in my state, North Carolina as this USA Today article documents http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/12/10/snowy-owl-influx-a-hoot-for-bird-watchers/3978577/

Snowy Owl Range

What Snowy Owls Eat:

Snowy owls are carnivores that hunt from a perch that gives them good visibility while waiting for potential prey. Swiveling their head three quarters of the way around, snowy owls hunt for lemmings and mice mostly, but also take rabbits and fish when available. Snowy owls also store extra food on their perch.

How Long Snowy Owls Live:

Up to 28 years.

Why Snowy Owls are Awesome:

The feathers of snowy owls have no pigment, leaving more space for air which helps them to keep warmer because air is such a good insulator. Most owls sleep during the day and are active at night but snowy owls hunt during the day, especially at dawn and dusk. Snowy owls have lots of names too, including Ghost Owls, Tundra Ghosts, Arctic Owls, and Great White Owls. And they’re bad asses- a snowy owl will attack any predators, including wolves, that threaten its ground nest. Here’s a video montage of awesome snowy owl photos http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3yedchgyXA.  Crank up the volume!

Why We Care about Snowy Owls:

Like most birds of prey, snowy owls help control rodent populations. Plus they are beautiful and unique with amazing flight skills! In fact, PBS Nature created an entire documentary for this magnificent raptor, which you may watch here http://video.pbs.org/video/2291436455/

What are some of your thoughts about the snowy owl?  Questions?

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One comment on “Day One of Twelve Days of Arctic Animals: Snowy Owl

  1. Miruna Falzon
    April 23, 2014

    Wish i could have one also 🙂
    Beautiful birds !!!

    Like

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This entry was posted on December 14, 2013 by in Arctic Animals, Birds, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , .
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