Snowy Owls

It’s one of those strange days when I just couldn’t think of anything to write. These things happen to writers, and sometimes, we just have to force our fingers to begin randomly hitting the keys of our keyboards and hope what comes out will have some semblance of order, or failing that, that our editors can make heads or tails of what we’re trying to say. So as I was sitting here trying desperately to figure out what to say during this non-writing theme, sorta holiday concept blog hop, and staring out at the snow-covered hillside beyond my window, an idea hit. Write something about Snowy Owls. I have a wildlife rehabber in an upcoming book, snowies have been in the news of late, it’s winter, and owls are always awesome. So here we go—a quick blog about Snowy Owls.

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Now a fast note here, since I like to check some of my facts when doing blog post like this. I just found out that, per mitochondrial DNA studies, Snowy Owls are in the same branch of the owl family tree as horned owls. I can see it. Snowies are large owls with well-feathered feet. I personally have never dealt with a snowy owl, but I have dealt with several Great Horned Owls in both rehab and educational settings, so I can’t vouch for similarities in personalities. Maybe someone will be kind enough to comment on it. Basic facts: Snowy Owls range in size from 20-28 inches in length with a 49-59 inch wingspan and weigh between three to seven pounds. That’s a fair amount of owl. They start out white with black stripes/markings. Over time, the males molt out most of their black stripes and the females a few of them. This sexual dimorphism is unusual in owls as most cannot be easily sexed by color. Like all raptors, or birds of prey, they have differences in size between the sexes, with the female being about a third larger than the males.

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For the most part, Snowy Owls are found above the 60-degree latitude north line. Depending on weather conditions, they are occasionally pushed south in search of prey and more hospitable conditions. Now when you consider that a Snowy Owl is an arctic species, things have to be pretty frigid to push them south for the winter. Like most owls, they are extremely opportunistic predators with a particular liking for lemmings. In fact, Snowy Owl populations follow a similar bell curve to lemmings. An average Snowy Owl can consume up to 1,600 lemmings over the course of a year. When the lemmings are in short supply, Snowy Owls head south in search of things like rabbits, rats, mice, ducks, pheasants, basically anything that fits in their razor-sharp talons.Snowy_Owl_2

The past few days, Snowy Owls have made the news as a major cold front pushed them down into the northern U.S. Folks are spotting the brilliant white birds in some unusual places. But what brought them out to the news is an order in New York to shoot them if they are spotted at airports. There’s been a huge public outcry to this and the order has been restated and they are now being trapped and relocated. This is a much better response to finding owls than shooting them. Not only is it a cruel and stupid thing to do, but all raptors are protected by the Migratory Bird Act and it’s illegal to kill them. For me, the fact that the authorities actually listened to the public outcry is a good thing. Sometimes those in charge really do hear what the people have to say. There is hope for people and the wonderful creatures that share our world.

I like owls. They are incredibly awesome creatures. The fact that I manage to work a few into my stories now and then is even better. There are others that also manage to work owls into their work. I won’t even bother mentioning the most famous Snowy Owl in the fictional worlds. So keep your eyes open, I know I am. We spotted a Snowy Owl a couple of years ago, and hopefully, we will spot more this year. If it’s going to be a frigid winter, these birds might be the bright spot in an otherwise dreary winter for many people. So let their white and black wings carry a bit of joy and happiness this holiday season.

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Now for the paperwork part of this blog hop. Here are the links for yesterday’s Blog with Caitlin Ricci and tomorrow’s blogs with Cari Z. (to be added at time of posting) Please stop by and see what some of my other author friends have to talk about during this awesome Colorado M/M writers winter holiday blog hop. Also there will be a giveaway. Be sure to check out the home page for more details.