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Recent Sighting:

Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus

Order: Strigiformes — Family: Strigidae

Identification

A Snowy Owl is so white and bulky that it should not be misidentified. Females are heavily barred and spotted, juveniles even more so but the smaller males are almost pure white.

Ageing

Juveniles are dark grey on the head and body and often retain some downy feathers as late as October. First winter birds of both sexes resemble females, but young males lack heavy bars on the crown and neck, are whiter faced and smaller.

Voice

Their territorial calls are deep and gruff.

Sexing

Males are smaller than females and almost completely lack the dark spotting, appearing almost pure white.

Length

59cm

Migration

Birds mainly winter within their breeding range but move in response to local food abundances.

Habitat

Breeds and winters on open tundra and mountains.

Food

Mainly shrews, mice and other small mammals but will also take small birds.

Population trends

This rare bird is vulnerable due to such small numbers and great fluctuations in population. Its nomadic habits make accurate estimates of numbers difficult.

Subspecies

Monotypic.

Population in Britain and Ireland

Bred on Fetlar in the Shetland Islands between 1967-1975. Since then there have been more sightings in the Scottish Highlands and Shetlands but no evidence of breeding.

Where in Britain and Ireland

Having bred on Fetlar in the Shetland Island between 1967-75, the species is now much more scarce again. Occasional birds summer on the Cairngorm Plateau or in the Northern Isles. Away from Scotland, the species is an extremely rare vagrant. There were 160 British and Irish records between 1958 and 2000.

Population in Europe

Less than 250 breeding pairs are concentrated in Norway, Finland and Sweden.

Where in Europe

A rare and elusive bird on the tundra areas of Scandinavia. At least one bird is often present on Fetlar, Shetland and this can be the easiest Snowy Owl to see. Even on the Varanger Fjord they are hard to find but one is said to regularly hunt at the Kittiwake colony on Ekkeroy, especially around midnight.

Nests

Lays eggs in a small scrape on the ground with no material.

Eggs

3-9, white, laid in beginning May to July. Incubation takes 30-33 days. Young fledge after 43-50 days. 1 brood per year.

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