A snowstorm is upon us… but here is a gorgeous snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus) from this morning, before it becomes invisible in the white snow!
Snowy owls are distributed throughout the Arctic tundra in North America and Eurasia, using their white plumage to camouflage against uniform snowy habitat. During the winter, they migrate to more southern latitudes and have become regular inhabitants in the northern U.S.. Around the Boston area, snowy owls can be spotted on the rocky shores along the Boston Harbor islands, sitting motionless like a small fluffy snowman. They are unusual for owls in that they can be active hunters during the day and night. Snowies take a variety of prey, including rodents such as lemmings, voles, and deer mice, larger mammals like squirrels, rabbits, marmots, and raccoons, and even other birds including ducks, geese, crows, gulls, and grebes. We spotted two seabird carcasses and other patches of strewn feathers near this owl. If you look closely in the photo you can see her black talons and bloody feet; clearly she is having a successful time feeding here in the south.
Snowy owls are large birds of prey, with large adults measuring over two feet tall and having an impressive wingspan of almost five feet long. They are also the heaviest owl, weighing up to four pounds because of their thick plumage. Males tend to be almost completely white, while females and juveniles have black barring across the upper sides of the wings, back and belly (much like the individual pictured here). Like many other owls, their eyes have piercing bright yellow irises. Making eye contact with owls is always such a mesmerizing experience. One day I’ll have a good telephoto lens for birding to show much more detail!
Seeing a snowy owl was really a treat for me. I am much more oriented towards warmer tropical environments (maybe because I am not so cold-adapted), and I felt lucky that this extreme arctic-adapted avian predator made its way into my own distribution 🙂
Filmed and photographed after pursuit