SNOWY OWL

This is a big owl nearly of a size of an eagle owl. The color is snowy-white with brown spots. The weight of male species is up to 1.5 kilos, the female owl can weigh 2.5 kilos. The wing spread is 160 cm. The bird mostly stays on the ground unwillingly sitting itself down on trees. The flight is fast. The owl is quite cautious. The bird’s voice is a loud squawk “kee-kee” or the sound resembling the “crow-ow” of crows. The snowy owl is a migratory bird.

It waits for its prey sitting on a hill or slowly flying low above ground. The bird feeds mostly on rodents and partridges; it also catches big birds (ducks, bean gooses and roughlegs) and hares. In steppe regions the owl feeds on small birds and rodents. It can also attack arctic foxes.

Nesting place is a typical one for the birds of arctic deserts and northern tundras of Taimyr. Individual birds nest at arctic deserts of Severnaya Zemlya islands. The owl also inhabits the shores of the Yenisei Bay. In Taimyr it populates mostly forelands within 200-300 kilometers from the shore. During migration period it can be encountered all over the Krasnoyarsk Territory. The period of flying out from tundra takes place in September-October.

The owls return to tundra in the end of March and April together with partridges. In the end of October the snowy owls are seen near Krasnoyarsk; they are frequently encountered in Minusinsk kettle hole in November and December. At this time of year the owl may become incautious especially during the daytime allowing the human to approach closely. One day we were able to catch a healthy owl with a net just near the Shir village while the bird was sitting in a hay cock.
The owl population varies through years depending on the breeding of its main food – the lemmings. When there are not many rodents the owl hardly propagate its kind.

The nest represents a hole in the ground without lining. The birds nest on small hills, dry hillsides and coastal cliffs’ ledges. The laying of eggs starts in the middle of May.

There are 3 to 11 white and ocher-white eggs in a set. The female owl hatches the eggs while the male owl brings the food to the female and then – to the aery. The male owl fiercely defends the nest, particularly from the arctic fox. At the same time the owls themselves often attack young arctic foxes. The nestlings hatch in the end of June.