Tag Archives: male Snowy Owl

SNOWY OWL AERIAL FIGHT

Hedwig arrived at Bass Rocks with the rising sun. Her face was smudged with blood from what I imagine was a satisfying breakfast. Off and on throughout the day, in between naps, she preened and groomed. By the end of afternoon her facial feathers were smooth and white.

After a day of grooming and resting, notice how much cleaner her face is by late afternoon.

A horde of crows arrived to harass Hedwig but she held her ground.

Hedwig crouching down while the crows were dive bombing.

She jumped from the upper rock down to the lower rock just prior to taking off.

Late in the day, about the time when she would ordinarily take off to hunt, a cell phone person crept out onto the rocks, getting way to close to her. Hedwig was visibly uncomfortable and took off over the water. Suddenly and seeming from out of nowhere, Bubo came flying towards her. An aerial skirmish ensued but with no real contact. The battle appeared to be about establishing territory. Although taking place out over the water in the distance nevertheless, you can see the owl’s facial expressions were incredible; click on the photos to see larger images.

Bubo took over the rocky area near to where had been Hedwig’s perch for the day, while she flew further down the rocks.  

She perched on the the rocky beach, when the same cell phone person again got way too close, and caused her to flush a second time.

Perhaps this was just an average day in a Snowy Owl’s life but I was reminded once again that nearly every moment of a wild creature’s life is a struggle to survive.

SNOWY OWL WATCHING TIPS: The following are some helpful tips for watching Snowy Owls.

  1. Watch from a comfortable distance–comfortable for the bird that is. Nothing makes the Owls more stressed than people getting too close.
  2. Please keep children from throwing rocks towards the Snowy or anywhere within the vicinity of the Owl.
  3. Please don’t allow dogs to play near the Snowies.
  4. There have been reports of Snowies flying into cars. They often fly low when flushed and it is easy to understand why this may happen, especially as the Snowies are drawing so much traffic. Please be on the look out when you are in known Snowy Owl territory.
  5. Slamming doors, radios blasting, barking dogs, and loud mufflers all stress the Snowies.

SNOWY OWL BUBO HAS A BOOBOO

Although Bubo appears to have an injury surrounding his left eye, it did not seem to affect his ability to see. I sent a photo yesterday to Erin Whitmore and both she and Jodi Swenson confirmed that he’s probably okay at this point.

This afternoon he flew into Hedwig’s territoy, which had been hers all day, and after an aerial battle took place, he claimed her rock. I don’t know if it’s the light but Bubo’s eye does not look any better today. The crows and seagulls are vicious and unrelenting towards the Snowies, other raptors don’t want them in their territory, and they are battling each other–it’s easy to understand how an eye could become injured. Posting photos tomorrow of the Snowy battle.

Comparing right eye versus left eye.

SNOWY OWL FIGHT AND HEDWIG AND BUBO WEEKEND UPDATE

Hedwig preparing for take-off.

Reports by several photographers have come in that early Sunday morning Hedwig and Bubo had a tremendous fight. They were going at it talon to talon and the feathers were flying. This is normal behavior amongst Snowy Owls. They are not a mated pair; Hedwig arrived at Bass Rocks weeks earlier than Bubo, and Snowy Owls don’t migrate together. The two were most likely fighting over territory. As a matter of interest, we generally see more males in our region because the female Snowies are stronger and better fliers and they often stake out territory further north, closer to their Arctic home base.

Bubo after the fight.

The two Snowies retreated, spending the remainder of the day on the Atlantic side of Bass Rocks. Bubo was perched out in the open opposite the Inns, while Hedwig stayed tucked under the shelter of a rock outcropping.

At dusk they both flew to their favorite perches to begin a night of hunting. Hedwig was unfortunately being dive-bombed by a single crow and Bubo may have been chased from the area by a bunch of crows. Monday morning, as of this writing, only Hedwig was seen.

SNOWY OWL WATCHING TIPS: The following are some helpful tips for watching Snowy Owls, reposted from yesterday.

  1. Watch from a comfortable distance–comfortable for the bird that is. Nothing makes the Owls more stressed than people getting too close.
  2. Please keep children from throwing rocks towards the Snowy or anywhere within the vicinity of the Owl.
  3. Please don’t allow dogs to play near the Snowies.
  4. There have been reports of Snowies flying into cars. They often fly low when flushed and it is easy to understand why this may happen, especially as the Snowies are drawing so much traffic. Please be on the look out when you are in known Snowy Owl territory.
  5. Slamming doors, radios blasting, barking dogs, and loud mufflers all stress the Snowies.

Reader Amy Mcmahon shared the following blog post about observing signs of stress in owls Signs of Stress in Owls.

Many thanks to Amy for sharing!

Hedwig grooming her feet and talons.

Hedwig in flight.

NOT ONE, BUT TWO SNOWY OWLS ON THE BACKSHORE, PERCHED WITHIN METERS OF ONE ANOTHER!

Golden Eyes of the Snowy in the Golden Light of Sunset

Snowy Owls once again this January drew crowds along the backshore Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Fans were treated to not one, but two Snowies, and for quite a good amount of time they were perched within meters of one another–the paler owl (most likely a male) sat atop the corner of the Ocean Inn and the owl with heavily barred feather patterning (most likely a female) perched at the top of a phone pole.

With the clear distinction between the owl’s feather patterns I think we could name the Snowies–the female, Hedwig (thank you Michele for the suggestion) and the male, Bubo. The scientific name for the Snowy Owl is Bubo scandiacus and the name Bubo may help us remember that fact.

The photos were taken Saturday and I’ll have time to post Sunday’s tomorrow.

Notice how perfectly Bubo blends amidst the surrounding rocks.

It’s no wonder why the Snowies are drawing such crowds. Most owl species are nocturnal; Snowy Owls are diurnal, which means they hunt during daylight hours. It is logical when you think about the continuous daylight of the Arctic, they must be able to hunt during the day. Snowy Owls wintering in our region hunt during both the day and night, depending on what type of prey they are after.

SNOWY OWL WATCHING ETIQUETTE: The following are some helpful tips for watching Snowy Owls. You will get better photographs and you won’t stress out the Snowies.

  1. Watch from a comfortable distance–comfortable for the bird that is. Nothing makes the Owls more stressed than people getting too close.
  2. Please keep children from throwing rocks towards the Snowy or anywhere within the vicinity of the Owl.
  3. Please don’t allow dogs to play near the Snowies.
  4. Slamming doors, radios blasting, barking dogs, and loud mufflers all stress the Snowies.

Hedwig and Bubo have an ability to tolerate some human activity nonetheless, we want to help them survive and protect their time here on our shores. When Snowies are perching, it’s not for our enjoyment (although beautiful) but because they are either resting or on the look out for their next meal.  After all, if they have a good hunting season and survive the winter, perhaps they will return next year!

Fellow photographer friend Dave shared the above photo. You can see the guy is waaaayyyyy too close to Bubo and has caused him to flush.

Snowy Owls have wonderfully expressive faces. Hedwig’s eyes lit up in the setting sun.

Female Hedwig perched in the distance on the far left, male Bubo perched on the corner of the Inn, to the right.

How to Tell the Difference Between Male and Female Snowy Owls

The winter of 2017-2018 has proven so far to be an irruptive year for Snowy Owls, as was predicted by scientists. In years when there is a lemming population boom, which is a staple of the Snowy’s diet, double, even triple, the amount of Snowy Owl hatchlings survive the summer breeding season. Arctic winter arrives and for whatever reason, either there is less food available or the first hatch year owls can’t hunt as well, a number of Snowies head south, both adults and juveniles, generally though, more juveniles than adults migrate.

Snowy Owls are white birds, with varying degrees of brown, black, and gray feather patterning. They are North America’s largest owl by weight. As with most bird of prey species, female Snowies are larger than the males, by about one pound. That is considerable, knowing that the average weight of a Snowy Owl is four pounds. A male may grow up to 25 inches, a female to 27 inches, and the wingspan of both is about equal. Because females are larger and more dominant, they usually don’t migrate as far south, staking out territory further north. Typically in our area we see first hatch year males, although currently there is thought to be an adult male at Salisbury Beach. The Snowy at Bass Rocks is presumably a female. When out in the field, the hardest to tell apart are the darkest males and the palest females.

In learning about Snowy Owls, I came across several very helpful photos of Snowy Owl specimens. And we have three examples, from Snowies found right here on the North Shore, from which to compare.

In the photo below, you are looking at eight Snowy Owl specimens from the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates. One through five on the left are males; six, seven, and eight are females. Notice how similar, yet different, are five and six (male #5, female #6).

  1. Snowy Owl males are generally whiter.
  2. Snowy Owl females tend to be larger.
  3. Snowy Owl male’s tails have up to three bars, the female’s have from three to six.
  4. Snowy Owl females have wider and darker marks and bars on the back, nape, and tail.
  5. Snowy Owl males have a larger white bib.

Closeup of the intermediary male (five) and female (six).

Underside of the Owls, in the same order.

Comparing the above photos I think we can logically conclude that the Snowy Owl that was at Captain Joe and Sons in 2015 was a young male, with light markings and a large white bib.

Young Male Snowy Owl

The Snowy Owl currently at Bass Rocks, I think it is safe to say, is a female, and most likely a juvenile. She doesn’t have much bib showing and her overall markings are wide and dark.

Female Snowy Owl

We have our own example of an intermediate–is the Snowy Owl recently photographed at Cranes Beach a juvenile male or a female?

Male or female?