Snowy owl at Exmoor owls
A very majestic lady, so different to any other bird here at the Centre, as she dictates what she will do and how she will fly! Tundra is very much in charge of her own destiny. She is a magnificent bird, and still stands as our largest bird of prey at the Centre, inspite of the presence of a wonderful European Eagle Owl, and our imperious Tawny Eagle. On a good day, Tundra is one of our most impressive flyers, gliding majestically over the field from one corner to another, and with great manoeuvrability around corners and obstacles - on other occasions she just sits there and says 'No!' in no uncertain terms, or flies off over the surrounding fields. This lady really knows her way around Bossington fields.
Snowy owls are very large birds, and as such taking off and landing is no easy task. In the wilds of the Arctic there are few trees or perches other than rocky outcrops, so they tend to spend a lot of their time on the floor. However, once airborne their huge wings will take them for miles with very little effort. Tundra loves to make long gliding flights around the field when the wind is right, but she also is quite happy to walk there too!
As with most owls their population is very much controlled by food availability. Their favourite prey is the little lemming, whose population also fluctuates according to food source, so the laying capacity of Snowy Owls tends to follow the same patterns. In a 'good' lemming year these owls may lay as many as 14 eggs in a clutch.
As they hatch and grow the surrounding lichen covered ground resonates with the ear piercing calls of fluffy dark grey owlets scattering far and wide. Quite a challenge to look after them all!
An adult snowy owl may eat as many as 1600 lemmings a year, and so is an important factor in rodent control in these cold conditions. When lemmings and other small mammals are scarce they become quite nomadic, and may move south in search of other food sources.
Over 30 years ago snowy owls were recorded breeding off the northern islands of Scotland, but the last record was in 1975. Irregular sightings of Snowy owls in the UK occur from time to time - the question arises as to whether or not these are escapees from domestic aviaries.