Crystal – Snowy Owl
Received: March 2012
Crystal came to WBS in March of 2012 from the Milford Nature Center in Junction City, Kansas. She was found on the road after being struck by a car and sustained a broken wing and a permanent eye injury.
Because of these injuries she cannot be released to the wild and is now a permanent resident and acting ambassador for her species at World Bird Sanctuary.
Species: Snowy Owl
Scientific Name: Bubo scandiacus
Description: large, diurnal, white owl with a rounded head; yellow eyes and black bill; feet heavily feathered; overall plumage variably barred or speckled with thin, black, horizontal bars or spots; adult males almost pure white; adult females distinctly barred throughout with four to six tail bands; juveniles uniformly brown with scattered white tips of down
Sex: females somewhat larger than males
Age: up to 9.5 years in the wild; up to 35 years in captivity
Weight: 2.5-4.5 lbs.
Habitat: the Arctic tundra or open grasslands and fields; windswept tundra when wintering in the Arctic; agricultural areas at more southerly latitudes
Status: locally abundant during good lemming years; rare at some locations during low lemming years
Range: Arctic regions of the old and new worlds; highly nomadic, depending on the lemming and vole population; cyclical appearance in southern Canada and northern U.S. approximately every 3-5 years coinciding with lemming population crashes
Behavior: courtship behavior includes aerial displays and ground displays, including feeding the female; nests almost exclusively on the ground; nests lined with vegetation and Owl feathers; breeding in May; 5 to as many as 14 eggs are laid, depending on lemming availability; female incubates; eggs hatch in 32-34 days; young leave the nest after 25 days; fledge at 50-60 days; both parents feed young
Diet: mostly lemmings and voles; opportunistic and known to take prey ranging in size from small mammals and birds up to and including snowshoe hares; adult owl may eat around 3-5 lemmings per day
Vocalization: virtually silent during non-breeding season; during breeding the male has a loud booming “hoo, hoo”; females rarely hoot; the attack call is a gutteral “kruff-guh-guh-guk”; when excited it emits a loud “hooo-uh, hooo-uh, hooo-uh, wuh-whu-wuh”
- A Snowy Owl family may eat up to 1500 lemmings during one nesting season
- Recent reports indicate these birds are being illegally killed for their eyes and feet, which are traded in Asian markets