CRYSTAL – SNOWY OWL
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Hatch Year: Uknown
Arrival to WBS: 2012
Reason for Residence: vision impairment
Crystal was transferred to World Bird in March of 2012 from the Milford Nature Center in Kansas after being treated for collision injuries. She was found with a humeral fracture in her right wing, as well as severe damage to her right eye. While her wing was able to heal, Crystal has a detached retina in her right eye and as such does not have any vision left on that side. You can often see the difference in size between the two pupils no matter the light conditions. Due to this loss of vision she was deemed non-releasable and was transferred to us for permanent placement.
Since her arrival, Crystal has made a wonderful public exhibit bird, though she is still a little wary of people entering her enclosure. You can see Crystal out on exhibit in the fall and winter months behind the Gift Shop and Visitor’s Center, however once the temperatures begin to warm up she goes off exhibit and is housed indoors in a climate controlled area. A far better fit for this arctic species than a St.Louis summer!
SPECIES: SNOWY OWL
CONSERVATION STATUS: LEAST CONCERN – WATCH LIST
Snowy Owls nest in remote areas, have huge territories, and in winter their migrations are widespread and unpredictable, so it’s very difficult to estimate their population size. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 200,000 with 24% wintering in the U.S., and 50% spending some part of the year in Canada. The species rates a 13 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Snowy Owl is a U.S.-Canada Stewardship species, and is listed on the 2016 State of North America’s Birds’ Watch List, which includes bird species that are most at risk of extinction without significant conservation actions to reverse declines and reduce threats.
Scientific Name: Bubo scandiacus
Description: Snowy Owls are very large owls with smoothly rounded heads and no ear tufts. The body is bulky, with dense feathering on the legs that makes the bird look wide at the base when sitting on the ground. Snowy Owls are white birds with varying amounts of black or brown markings on the body and wings. On females this can be quite dense, giving the bird a salt-and-pepper look. Males tend to be paler and become whiter as they age. The eyes are yellow.
Sex: Adult females distinctly barred throughout with four to six tail bands; 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.
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”
– Snowy Owl’s diet is based almost entirely on lemmings in the arctic, and parents will actually begin to hunt and collect lemmings to feed their young before the eggs hatch.