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Fast Fact: Snowy Owls

Spotting a snowy owl can be a real thrill because these owls aren’t all that common in our area, and they are only here in the winter. The number of snowy owl sightings can vary greatly from year to year based on the food supply in their breeding grounds in the Arctic Circle. Some years we see a lot of snowy owls here in the winter; these are called irruption years. Other years, sightings are rare.

(Photo via Shutterstock)

Snowy owls are big birds, and they are the heaviest owls in North America. They are easy to identify because they are mostly white with some dark brown markings. The males get more white in color as they age, but the females keep their dark markings throughout their lives. Unlike our other local owl species, snowy owls are mostly active during the day and hunt at all hours of the day. They mostly eat small mammals. In their northern breeding grounds, they almost exclusively eat lemmings, as many as 1,600 a year. Here, they eat rodents, rabbits, squirrels, weasels and sometimes birds.


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