Saturday, April 5, 2008

Adopt-a-bird spotlight: Ookpik (Snowy Owl)

Ookpik’s Story

Species: Snowy Owl, Nyctea scandiaca
Hatched: Unknown

Ookpik originally came to the World Bird Sanctuary from the Denver Zoo. From 1999-2007, he was on breeding loan to another organzization. He returned to WBS in the spring of 2007.

Ookpik is the Inuit word for owl. At one time Snowy Owls were believed to be the only member of a distinct genus. However, a recent DNA study has shown that they are closely related to members of the genus Bubo, such as the Great Horned Owl and the Eurasian Eagle Owl.

During the winter months you can see Ookpik and his female companion, Tundra, in their large enclosure on the upper trail of the World Bird Sanctuary. During the hot St. Louis summers they are housed in an air conditioned building behind the scenes at WBS.

To adopt Ookpik, simply click our donation button, make a donation of $100, and specify in your payment notes: Adopt-a-bird: OOKPIK. Also include your name, phone number, and mailing address so that we can send you your adoption materials!

Every donation helps to feed, house, and provide medical care for the bird of your choice! Adopt-A-Bird Parents Receive:

*A personal visit with the bird you adopt!!!!! Call 636-861-3225 to set up a time for
your personal visit.
* Certificate of Adoption
* Color photo of the bird you've adopted
* Sponsorship Card
* One year's subscription to Mews News (our quarterly newsletter)
* Life History and Natural History of the bird
* 10% Discount off WBS merchandise
* Invitation to Sponsors-only events like Camera Day
* Discounts on WBS Special Events
* WBS Decal

Natural History

Snowy Owl
Nyctea scandiaca

Description large, diurnal, white owl with a rounded head; yellow eyes and black bill; feet heavily feathered; overall plumage variably barred or speckled with thin, black, horizontal bars or spots; adult males almost pure white; adult females distinctly barred throughout with four to six tail bands; juveniles uniformly brown with scattered white tips of down

Sex: females somewhat larger than males

Age: to 9.5 years in the wild; up to 35 years in captivity;

Length: 20-27”

Wingspan: 54-65’

Weight: 2.5 – 4.5 lbs.

Habitat: the Arctic tundra or open grasslands and fields; windswept tundra when wintering in the Arctic; agricultural areas at more southerly lattitudes

Status: locally abundant during good lemming years; rare at some locations during low lemming years

Range: Arctic regions of the old and new worlds; highly nomadic, depending on the lemming and vole population; cyclical appearance in southern Canada and northern U.S. approximately every 3-5 years coinciding with lemming population crashes
Behavior: courtship behavior includes aerial displays and ground displays, including feeding the female; nests almost exclusively on the ground; nests lined with vegetation and Owl feathers; breeding in May; 5 to as many as 14 eggs are laid, depending on lemming availability; female incubates; eggs hatch in 32-34 days; young leave the nest after 25 days; fledge at 50-60 days; both parents feed young

Diet: mostly lemmings and voles; opportunistic and known to take prey ranging in size from small mammals and birds up to and including snowshoe hares; adult owl may eat around 3-5 lemmings per day

Vocalization: virtually silent during non-breeding season; during breeding the male has a loud booming “hoo, hoo”; females rarely hoot; the attack call is a gutteral “kruff-guh-guh-guk”; when excited it emits a loud “hooo-uh, hooo-uh, hooo-uh, wuh-whu-wuh”

√ A Snowy Owl family may eat up to 1500 lemmings during one nesting season

√ Recent reports indicate these birds are being illegally killed for their eyes and feet, which are traded in Asian markets.

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