Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Snowy Owls Are Active During the Day

Tierpark Cottbus Schnee-Eule 1
© Redrobsche (via Wikimedia Commons)
When we think of animals that are nocturnal (active at night), the owl is usually one of the first that comes to mind. However, the Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) is one of the few species of owl that is mostly diurnal, or active during the day.

This bird prefers living in the tundra habitat of the far north, where there are few to no hours of darkness for part of the year. This means that they have no choice but to hunt in the daylight during this time. Throughout the rest of the year, they are able to hunt at night if necessary. 

Even though snowy owls are fans of "the land of the midnight sun," they are nomadic. In winter when the tundra skies are dark all day long and prey is scarce, the owls will migrate south and spend the season throughout Canada, the northern half of the United States, and northern Eurasia. The bulk of their diet is made up of lemmings and voles, but they'll also eat mice, muskrats, squirrels, moles, hares, rabbits and other small mammals. They have also been known to eat carrion, fish, songbirds, waterfowl and even small owls.

Snowy Owl movie trivia: Many people are familiar with the Snowy Owl due to Hedwig from Harry Potter. Even though Hedwig is supposed to be a female owl, the owls who played her (Gizmo, Ook and Sprout) were male. This is because the male snowy owl is smaller than the female, and therefore easier for young actors to handle.

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