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Snowy Owl

Nyctea scandiaca
Family: 
Strigidae (typical owls) in the order Strigiformes (owls)
Description: 

This owl only occasionally visits our state in the winter, generally in years when when food runs low in their arctic range. Thus most of the snowy owls seen in Missouri are immature individuals forced south for lack of food; these younger owls have extensive black barring on their body and head. Adults, especially males, are very white with some barring.

Size: 
Length: 20-25 inches (tip of bill to tip of tail); wingspan: 4 1/2 to 5 feet.
Habitat and conservation: 
Visits Missouri during some winters and not others. Peak numbers in Missouri occur about every four years in response to lemming population crashes in far north. Only a small portion (usually immature individuals) are forced south. Snowy owls are most active during the day. In Missouri, prefers open grasslands. Perches on the ground, on fence posts or on hay bales. Aside from habitat loss, the greatest threats to this bird are shooting and car collisions.
Foods: 
Lemmings, rabbits, squirrels and other rodents, mink and muskrats. In their arctic range, they hunt for waterfowl and other birds.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Could show up anywhere in Missouri, but usually mostly in the northern counties.
Status: 
Rare, sporadic winter visitor. Visits Missouri during some winters and not others. Peak numbers in Missouri occur about every four years in response to lemming population crashes in far north. Only a small portion (usually immature individuals) of the population are forced south.
Life cycle: 
This owl nests in open tundra in its circumpolar summer range. Snowy owls are most likely seen in our state from mid-November through February, although there are records in October and April.
Ecosystem connections: 
Owls help control populations of small mammals. Snowy owls' varying range, due to changes in prey populations, shows the interconnection between predator and prey, and how scarcity of one can effect the fortunes of the other. When lemmings are scarce, they "control" populations of their predators!
Shortened URL
http://mdc.mo.gov/node/7443