Snowy Owls breed on the Arctic tundra, but many birds overwinter in Southwestern Ontario and the Great Lakes area. They are our largest owl by weight and reported sightings in our area have increased in the last week, with birds being observed near Belmont, Strathroy, and Kettle Point. Snowy Owls like wide open spaces so look for them across farmland, beach dunes, or airport fields. Snowy Owls spend a lot of time sitting on the ground. Adult males are almost completely white, while females are marked with black bars so spotting them can be a bit tricky in a snow covered field. When trying to locate them look for their stocky bodies sticking up from the ground or a flock of smaller birds harassing them. These owls prefer having a good vantage of their surroundings for hunting, so a slightly high spot in a field is a perfect place for them to sit. Hay bales, grain elevators, fence posts, telephone poles, and the rooftops of farm buildings also provide great views not only for the owl but for birders to spot them. Snowy Owls are diurnal hunters so unlike most owls they are quite active during the day. They feed primarily on small rodents such as lemmings, mice or voles, but will also consume larger prey such as rabbits, squirrels and birds.
If you happen to come across one of these amazing owls remember to keep your distance. They have travelled many miles, are under incredible stress and hungry. If you see one while driving the county roads stay in your car. Stop, roll down your window, take pictures and enjoy it’s beauty but don’t try to approach it. I know from experience you can get much longer looks from a car than on foot. I have seen too many people try to walk up to the bird for a better look only to see it fly away. Snowy Owls will stay in the same area all winter and will return to the same area year after year if not disturbed. If you can’t get a good enough look or picture return to the area another day. Snowy Owls will be here throughout the winter months so be patient, and a good look will present itself.