Here at Grouse Mountain we have several Owl Wildlife Ambassadors - but perhaps none as striking as Blizzard, our male Snowy Owl (don't tell that to the others though!).
Blizzard has been here at Grouse Mountain since 2014 after he was hatched at an educational facility in Edmonton in 2011. He was hand raised to be a friendly imprint bird that can teach others about Snowy Owls. He has become a winter specialist for us as he much prefers the cold winter temperatures to the summer heat. Also he's a bit shy around big crowds but gets into the educational presentations for small groups!
Snowy Owls are a unique and fascinating species that inhabits the artic tundra in the north for the Summer months and then migrates south for the winter. They are what is known as an irruptive migrator - meaning they will migrate to different latitudes and locations depending on conditions.
Their striking white plumage and yellow eyes make them a very beautiful yet mysterious species. They are also one of the few owls that is Diurnal, or active during the day. If you think about how much daylight there is in the artic in the summertime (almost 24 hours in some parts!) it makes total sense that they have to hunt in daylight. Their yellow eyes indicate this as the yellow helps reduce some sun glare off of ice and snow.
Blizzard is a Male Snowy Owl and one of the distinguishing features between the Males and Females is the darkness of their feathering. The females can have a lot of black and grey in their feathers whereas the males are nearly all white. The females are also much larger than the males with a large female weighing up to and over 2kg.
There is also a difference in Owl nest/household duties between the males and females - the males will go out and hunt lemmings, voles, mice, ptarmigan and bring it home to the female who will be watching over the nest and feeding the young.
Snowy Owls also have some of the densest feathers to protect them from the cold artic temperatures - their feathering even goes right down onto and under their toes to keep them warm. With a lack of trees in the north the Snowys are often found perching on logs, rocks or even the bare ground.
Keep an eye out for our Wildlife Ambassadors making some appearances in front of our chalet over the winter months. We'd love to teach you more about these amazing owls. If you are an educator please inquire about our in person or online classroom session as well!
Happy H-Owl-idays everyone!