Most of us came to be familiar with the snowy owl thanks to the Harry Potter series. Harry’s trusted snow owl companion, Hedwig, brought him his mail and made many of us want our own pet owl. The author, J.K. Rowling credits her love for owls which began when her mother gave her an owl toy when she was a little girl. While Hedwig was a female owl, she was always played by male owls in the movies. This was done for the magical aesthetic of an all white bird, and males typically have whiter feathers overall. Females will usually keep some dark brown spots and will never don a fully white coat. Males, on the other hand, can become fully white when they reach a certain age, but otherwise have some spotting too.
While not natives to the English backdrop of Harry Potter, snowy owls are found in Northern parts of North America and some of Europe.They’re actually thought to be more nomadic in nature, travelling for miles while hunting. They usually travel in search of prey and head down south during their breeding season. However, despite being excellent predators themselves, they do have to defend themselves from becoming prey as well.Their nests can be preyed on by grey wolves, Arctic foxes, dogs, and other birds of prey. Breeding pairs will defend their nests by staying nearby to surveillance the area. The males will often stand guard while the females incubate the eggs in the nest. In the event that there is a predator, parents will attack by dive-bombing or distracting it away from the nest.
SNOWY OWL DECLINE
Fans of Hedwig and snowy owl enthusiasts might not be happy to know that the birds are declining in number. Conversely, they were considered to be of least concern according to the IUCN in 2012. This is greatly due to the large size of their habitat range. However, as of 2017, they are now considered to be vulnerable with around 28,000 mature individuals in the wild.
Much of their loss in numbers is due to climate change and its effect on their food source. Snowy owls depend on plenty of their favorite prey, lemmings, to survive everyday. Lemmings are fickle creatures and need a particular amount of snow cover to survive, which is disturbed by global warming. A drop in their populations directly threatens that of the snowy owl.