why do snowy owls have yellow eyes

There s a snowy owl along Highway 71, just north of Spirit Lake. The caller on the phone had an excited lilt to her voice, the joy of seeing a snowy owl in Iowa. It seems that plenty of people have gotten to experience the excitement of seeing the largest owl, by weight, in North America. So far this winter, more than 160 snowy owl sightings have been reported to the. It seems rare to see this many snowy owls this far south, when usually Iowa only has 10 or so in the state, but the higher number this season is not all that uncommon. The populations of the owls grow in a cycle of every four to five years, and when populations boom there is not enough space in their southern migration grounds, so more end up traveling even farther south than usual to find food. Snowy owls spend their summers in the Arctic hunting lemmings, ptarmigan and other prey in the 24-hour daylight. Their primary food source is lemmings, and these rodents have cyclical population patterns, spiking every five to 10 years. When their populations spike, the numbers of snowy owls rise as well. You can see in this range map that Iowa is a part of the snowy owl s typical winter range, and they can often be found along shorelines, near agricultural fields and by airports.

Although snowy owls are not completely uncommon in the state they still are a majestic bird that gets people out taking pictures and traveling long distances to be able to see one. So what makes these birds such a draw? Color Probably the biggest draw to snowy owls is their bright, white feathers. Males tend to be whiter, while females will have more brown or black markings on their body and wings. Males will even become paler and whiter as they age. Plus, snowy owls have bright yellow eyes, giving them an even more powerful and intriguing look. Hunting Snowy owls are easier to spot than other owls because they are diurnal meaning, of the day. They hunt during daylight hours, because in their breeding grounds in the Arctic it s always daylight. In Iowa, that makes them easier to spot as they sit near the ground, looking for prey. They will also stay in the same spot for a long time, often hours, as they look and listen for prey. Size The snowy owl is also impressive because of its huge size. Adults typically weigh about 4 pounds, partially due to their thick feathers and fat that insulate them in the cold. For reference, a great horned owl weighs about 3 pounds on average while a great gray owl America s tallest owl weighs about 2 pounds.

Unpredictability Snowy owls are known as irruptive, appearing in some winters but not in others, and since they live in such remote areas and have huge territories it s difficult for scientists to estimate their actual population size. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 200,000, with 24 percent wintering in the U. S. Have you seen a snowy owl this winter? Let us know where and when!
Snowy owls are solitary birds and generally avoid areas with a lot of activity. Because of that, most birders see them first from a great distance, though high quality or a can seem to bring the birds up close for better views. Knowing what to look for from far away, however, is often the first step toward identifying snowy owls. Open Habitat : can be the best clue to a snowy owl s identification. Their preferred habitats are open areas with light. snow cover, including dunes and beaches, fields and woodland edges in agricultural areas. The birds will often perch directly on the ground or on a low perch such as a rock or fence post while they survey the territory, though they can also perch on roofs or higher poles, particularly when they venture into unfamiliar areas during.

Round Shape : Even from a distance, the round shape of these birds stands out. When seen from far away, the snowy owl might look similar to a lost white volleyball, beach ball or discarded plastic bag в but look more closely and you may be surprised at the bird you find! Plumage Markings : While the nearly pure white male birds won t show markings that can be discerned from a distance, female snowy owls are heavily barred and that barring can still be seen from far away. Look for a white face, throat and breast contrasting with a heavily marked, back, wings and to determine the gender of the bird. On the white face of both male and female birds, the darker spots of the eyes and bill can still stand out. Snowy owls might seem easy to identify and they are familiar to many birders, but seeing one in the wild can be quite different than checking out a field guide. Understanding the different field marks of both male and female snowy owls can help you be prepared to identify these birds whenever you might be fortunate enough to spot one. Photo в Snowy Owl В

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