Snowy Owls in Ohio

Not all birds live in Ohio year-round, especially during the winter months. It is common to see bald eagles, hawks, sparrows, crows, geese, and other feathered species including owls. Interestingly, while twelve different owl species have been recorded in Ohio, only half are commonly found in the winter. One occasional visitor, the snowy owl, has been spotted in NW Ohio this past week.

The snowy owl is appropriately named as it regularly nests in the snowy Arctic tundra, some 2000 miles away from Putnam County. Males are mostly white while females more commonly have black bars on their feathers. Both males and females have white faces.

The number of snowy owls reaching Ohio in the winter varies from year to year. This largely depends on whether there are enough lemmings (a small rodent found in the North American tundra) for them to hunt. When the number of lemmings declines, snowy owls will fly south in search of food.  They will then expand their diet to include other bird species and small mammals like voles, mice, and rats.

Snowy owls are usually spotted along Lake Erie but can be found further south. They prefer the expanse of agricultural lands which is like the snow-covered tundra where they nest. In contrast to other owl species, snowy owls feed during the day, not the night.

Snowy owls will perch for long periods in search of prey – and are easily observed by passersby. Several snowy owls were spotted this past week. Owls are fairly large birds with a four-foot wingspan and weighing 4-5 pounds. Keep your eyes peeled for additional sightings of this magnificent winter visitor!

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