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Snowy owls are beautiful birds of prey, and one of the largest of the owl family in the entire world. They breed in the far north and migrate south during winter months to extend their feeding range. Many areas of southern Canada see a great increase in snowy owl populations during winter. Their primary source of food is tundra lemmings, although they eat many rodents and even small birds.
The population of snowy owls is declining precipitously. It was once estimated that there were 200,000 of these birds on the entire planet, but experts now believe that there are only 100,000 and that there are only 28,000 breeding pairs globally. Experts believe that global warming may be one of the biggest reasons for the decline.
Male snowy owls are a distinctive white colour but females and juveniles have mixed plumage with white and brown markings. They generally hunt at night but can occasionally be found hunting by day over open fields and especially near farmland.
This mature female was sighted on a telephone pole near a farm in Southern Ontario. It kept watch of an open field near a barn and then swooped gracefully to make a short flight over the corn field for what appeared to be a small rodent foraging for food. It is survival of the fittest in such situations and the owl's keen eyesight and silent flight allowed it to take advantage of this opportunity.
Snowy owls like this one have large, powerful talons and razor sharp beaks that allow it to quickly kill animals. Even an animal almost as large as the owl is often no match for the talons if the owl is able to pierce a vulnerable area such as the base of the skull.
Owls are a beautiful sight for bird watchers and these lucky enthusiasts were thrilled to capture this one on video as it made its flight over the field.