With the snowy weather, it seems appropriate to talk about the aptly named snowy owl whose colouring provides excellent camouflage for our northern climate.
Snowy owls, Quebec’s provincial bird, are found across the northern hemisphere and throughout Alberta. Their range extends from the Arctic Circle, where they breed north of the 60th parallel in the summer, to as far south as Texas in the winter. Unlike many other owl species that are generally active at night, snowy owls are acclimatised to hunting throughout the day. This is because their summer range in the circumpolar region features periods of 24-hour daylight for several weeks to months around June 21, depending on the latitude.
Snowy owls typically need between seven and twelve mice-sized meals per day to remain healthy and may catch up to 1,500 additional meals each year to feed their chicks. Lemmings are a main staple in the snowy owl diet, but they have been known to eat foxes, ducks, hares, mice, and voles.
Snowy owls have few natural predators but are well-equipped with their large talons and swift flight to ward off marauding foxes that might attempt to prey on their chicks.
They build shallow nests scraped into knolls or high ridges in the tundra in spring.
If you’d like to learn more about Alberta’s wildlife, book a wildlife education program for your school group. If you’d like to support AIWC’s current patients, consider donating something from our Wish List, or purchase a set of AIWC Christmas cards to send to your loved ones to let them know about AIWC’s rehabilitation hospital as well as local wildlife!
By Stephanie Ruddock, AIWC Volunteer
The Cornell Laboratory of Birds, All About Birds, Snow Owl. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Snowy_Owl/lifehistory
Hinterland’s Who’s Who. Snowy Owl. http://www.hww.ca/en/wildlife/birds/snowy-owl.html?referrer=https://www.google.ca/