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Snowy Owl.jpg
Snowy Owl Mike Andersen.jpg

Perhaps one of the most instantly recognisable of all owls, the snowy owl (Bubo scandiaca) is characterised by its distinctive white plumage, which gives it good camouflage against the snow. Whilst the male snowy owl is almost entirely white, sometimes with some sparse dark spots or barring, the larger female is variably marked with dark bars, while the juvenile resembles the female, but is generally more heavily barred. A large and powerful owl, the snowy owl has rudimentary ear-tufts, although these are not normally visible, and relatively small eyes, which are bright golden-yellow in colour, edged with black eyelids. The legs and toes are thickly feathered, and the short, dark beak is nearly concealed by the long facial feathers. The snowy owl is believed to be closely related to the eagle-owls, and, like eagle-owls, does not have a prominent facial disc, the flat or concave arrangement of feathers on the face, characteristic of most owls. The calls of this species include a deep, booming kroo-kroo or hoo-hoo, as well as a rapid, repeated cacklingka or ke, and the female may also produce a loud, intense whistling or mewing note. Often pairing for life, the male snowy owl performs an aerial display for the female during courtship, sometimes carrying a lemming too. Snowy owls will aggressively defend their nest from predators, and have even been known to drive wolves away. Although it generally feeds on small mammals, the snowy owl is also capable of taking prey as large as geese.

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