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The magic of snowy owls

Article Date: 2005-11-17   Source:   Comments: 19

By Marcia Abramson

Fort Wayne, Indiana, U.S.A. - Snowy owls didn't need J.K. Rowling to make them magical.

Long before Harry Potter, there were snowy owls in myths and legends. Native peoples from North America to Scandinavia to Russia told stories about the big white birds called by many names: Ghost Owl, Tundra Ghost, Ookpik, White Terror of the North.

Because they are great hunters, snowy owls were considered a sign of bravery. And because they can see in the dark, it was believed they could help people discover truths.

Harry Potter's owl, Hedwig, continues that tradition: She is brave and she carries messages that help Harry find out what is true.

But Hedwig is a magic owl from a story. A real owl is a wild creature and should never be kept as a pet. The United States does not allow people to keep snowy owls as pets without a special federal permit, but not all countries have this rule.

It's a good rule, though, because snowy owls can be dangerous. "Snowy owls in the wild can be pretty aggressive, especially when rearing chicks. Most owls will try and scare you off but snowies will attack and keep attacking until the threat is gone," said William Gibb, an owl expert from Northern Ireland.

In captivity, snowy owls can be nervous and curious -- but never taken for granted, he added. They are not smart like a raven or a parrot, Gibb said, but they are smart enough "to do what they do perfectly."

What do they do? They hunt for food and raise families. In the arctic regions, snowy owls mostly hunt small rodents called lemmings. The more lemmings there are, the more baby owls are hatched.

The owls in the Harry Potter movies are mostly rescued owls that cannot go back into the wild. They can be trained, said Gibb, but they are not very intelligent, which makes them extremely difficult to work with.

So when you see Hedwig in the movies, you're seeing the result of a lot of hard work by both trainer and owl.

You're also seeing a male owl playing Hedwig. In the real world, female snowy owls have a lot of brown markings; males do not, and Hedwig is supposed to be snowy white. Hedwig, of course, is a magic owl, so she can be whatever color she wants.



Weight: 3 to 4 pounds.

Length: 2 feet.

Wingspan: 60 to 65 inches.

Families: They are thought to mate for life. Both parents incubate and feed the snow-white chicks.

Lifespan: About 10 years in the wild; captive owls have lived as long as 28 years.

Range: Their home is the arctic, but they winter farther south. In North America, they have been seen as far south as Texas and Georgia, but that's unusual.

Food: Lots of rodents and small birds. Sometimes they even catch fish with their claws!

Status: Not endangered, though there is concern about their numbers in some parts of the world.

Mascot: The snowy owl is the official bird of the Canadian province of Quebec.

Disclaimer: This article has been reproduced from and placed here for comment. is not responsible for the accuracy of any information in this article, and does not necessarily agree with the author's opinions.

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On 2006-07-15, Randi wrote: "actually in the wild snowy owls live to about 9.5 years"

On 2006-11-27, from Vermont wrote: "Just to let you know I`m a big fan of Snowy Owls. I will love to know as much as you know about snowy Owls."

On 2007-04-18, Anna Shane Lawler from Hamden, Conneticut (U.S.A.) wrote: ""I love snowy owls. The reason I got interested in them is because I thought I heard one. I came here and after I confirmed it I checked 20 books out about them. Thank you so much!""

On 2007-05-01, cheer4mel wrote: "Hey I think it is really interesting doing a study about owls. I am not a nerd though! We are doing a study about owls in our home room. I am doing it on the Snowy owl. I am doing a pretty good job on finding info. We have to use up 50 index cards by tomorrow (May 2, 2007) I am on card 17. I started maybe 5 - 10 mins. ago. I have learned quit a good deal about owls. Hve a great day!

On 2007-05-03, celine sakran wrote: "snowy owls are cool ."

On 2007-08-31, phil from england wrote: "hi,ive had a young female snowy owl for 6 weeks now hand rearing her,she is lovely she was 11 weeks old yesterday,her name is holly"

On 2007-10-24, from china wrote: "i really love snowy owls they are so cool"

On 2007-11-19, from Dearborn, Michigan wrote: "I just saw a Snowy Owl this morning as I was driving onto a freeway ramp. It was huge and all white and it turned and looked at me. I have never seen one before. It was very interesting. Why would one be in Michigan?"

On 2008-04-19, from Southfield, Michigan wrote: "I agree with Maia why would a Snowy Owl be Michigan?"

On 2008-10-13, from Northern Ireland wrote: "I am Mike Gibb from Northern Ireland not William, there is no William Gibb in Ireland that work with owls, i believe i am the only one. I made some but NOT all of the comments in the above article."


On 2008-11-24, dory and dan thanks to the bir from eastern shore maryland wrote: "23 november 08...spotted a young male on a tump overlooking the ocean at assategue federal park btw marker 20 and 21...still and magnificent."

On 2010-01-12, Danielle Young from California wrote: "Thank u for this info. im doing a report called the raptor report and this really helps!
-Danielle Young

On 2011-03-26, dyre scheer-peters from calgary,Alberta,Canada wrote: "I like it and i'm doing a project on prezi about the snowy owl for air and are odimics.
-Dyre Scheer-Peters

On 2011-10-02, from Las Vegas, NV wrote: "I just saw a snowy owl in my front yard! I was returning from walking my dogs and heard a tremendous rustling in my neighbor's tree. When I looked up this huge white owl came right at me and swooped over my house a couple times. As it flew away all of the pigeons in the area flocked and started flying away, which I found amusing. Based on what I've read this morning this seems pretty far south for this species. Ironically, I'm from Fort Wayne, IN originally (author of this article is also)"

On 2011-11-27, Ann Ford from Dryden MI wrote: "11/26/2011 Saw my first snowy owl (female). Amazing! In a plowed farm field off of Oak Beach Road in the tip of the thumb, Michigan. Will remember those eyes forever!"

On 2013-09-24, kinzie from kc wrote: "i love snowy owls there so beautiful and free !"

On 2014-01-29, emily coolie wrote: "i need somthing for a school thing and this ancerd my question"

On 2015-01-21, jamsine wrote: "when I saw harry potter I noticed how majestic a snowy owl is. they are beautiful. "

Comments are closed for this article.

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