What to do at the Museum this month: Learn about the snowy owl

Photographs by Marlin Bloethe
Click any image to see a larger version.

The Snowy Owl is one of the largest owls in the world with its distinctive white face and large, intense yellow eyes. In the winter, the snowy owl flies southward in search of food sources including rodents, rabbits and sea birds. They can be seen on the East and West coasts along shorelines of lakes and oceans, as well as on agricultural fields and airport lands. They like wide open spaces and a good vantage point for hunting. They can sit still in the same spot for hours, occasionally swiveling their head or leaning forward and blinking their eyes. When they hunt, they use extraordinary vision and hearing to draw a bead on their prey and then fly, or even run forward to pounce upon it.

Snowy owls are regular winter visitors to Fishers Island. They have been spotted down at Race Point, at the airport, on Stony Beach, at Simmons Point and other open areas including the golf course. They perch on driftwood or beach rocks or stand on the ground. Ken Edwards has been spotting them on Fishers for at least 20 years. He reports that every year there are two to six snowy owl visitors who find plenty of food from the island’s rabbit, duck and pheasant populations. If you’re unable to see them in their winter habitat on the island, come to the Museum where there is one on display in the Natural History Gallery.

Did you know…

  • A specimen of a Snowy Owl, collected on Fishers Island circa 1919, was donated to the American Museum of Natural History by Henry L. Ferguson.
  • The Snowy Owl is believed to be one of the oldest bird species recognized in prehistoric cave art.
  • Unlike most owls, the Snowy Owl is diurnal, or active in the daytime.
  • The species rates #13 (out of 20) on the Continental Concern Score. The Snowy Owl is a U.S./Canada Stewardship species, and is listed on the State of North America’s Birds’ Watch List. Like all raptors, Snowy Owls are protected from trapping and shooting.

Photographs by Marlin Bloethe

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