Goose shepherd "or a white owl


class: birds

squad: owls

family: owl

race: owls

The polar owl (white owl) lives in the Arctic, tundra of Greenland, Eurasia, North America, as well as on the islands of the Arctic Ocean.

How does it look

It is the largest arctic representative of the family: wingspan is 166 cm, body length ranges from 55 to 65 cm, and weight can reach 3 kg. White plumage with dark horizontal pestrinami allows the bird to remain invisible against the background of snow cover. In males, compared with females and young individuals, there is less pestrin on the body.

White owl lifestyle

The polar owl is a predator. The bird spends most of its life tracking down prey. Prefers to hunt at dusk or at dawn. Prey hunts, sitting on the ground or on a small dais. Attacks abruptly and, if necessary, pursues prey. Large game takes to its nest, and small swallows entirely on the spot. Each owl family has its own protected breeding area, the area of ​​which varies from 1 to 6 km2. In the wild, the white owl lives for about 9 years, in captivity - up to 28 years.

The basis of nutrition - lemmings. It can also hunt hares, ermines, geese, ducks and white partridges. Danger for the species are foxes, blue foxes, skuas.


Formed pairs of polar owls often stay together for a lifetime. Owl nests are located on elevations, in the most dry and well warmed places. The nest is a hole dug in the ground. The owl carefully lines it with dry grass, small sprigs and its own down. The bird returns to the nesting place from year to year. In laying, there are usually 5–8 eggs, but if there is enough food, you can meet 12–15 eggs. The female incubates eggs for 32–34 days.

What eats?

The white owl is a predator that hunts a variety of rodents, but above all, lemmings. It also hunts smaller birds - ducks, partridges and geese - as well as small predators, for example, ermine or arctic fox. Rob a hunting trap, eat fish or "eat" carrion can a white owl. The description of the food of this feathered polar predator will be incomplete if you do not tell how he eats. So, this bird simply swallows small prey, but such a “thorn”, like a hedgehog, crushes with its beak. Larger prey, for example, a hare, is torn to pieces with its black sharp claws.

The white owl never hunts near the nest and actively protects its territory. That is why many birds, such as geese and geese, try to settle closer to her, using this predator to protect against stray dogs and foxes, as well as from the attack of other birds. Having noticed this feature, some northern peoples began to call the polar owl “the goose shepherd”.

Hunting features

Unlike other owls, the polar owl hunts in the morning and even in the afternoon. She looks out for her prey, settling on some elevation or circling her hunting territory. She can see her prey for a hundred meters, after which it takes off pretty hard, but rushes to the ground at lightning speed and attacks, grabbing it from above. If it is a small rodent, the snowy owl simply swallows it whole, along with its teeth, hair and everything else, and in the case of larger prey, such as an arctic fox, grabbing the carcass with its claws, the bird rises into the sky and from there throws the victim onto the ground. Then lands and tears to pieces.

Polar owl features

We considered all the main aspects of the life of such a bird, like a snowy owl. Interesting facts about her last:

1. This polar predator can eat nothing for up to 40 days using subcutaneous fat reserves. During this time, the fat layer is reduced by two centimeters. In order to save power and energy, during periods of forced “fasting” the bird practically does not fly and sits in one place.

2. White Owl, as well as other representatives of this species, can turn its head to 270 0. This is possible due to the unique structure of the neck of these birds, consisting of 14 cervical vertebrae.

3. Owl eyes can only look ahead, move like human beings, they cannot. In addition, this bird doesn’t see anything at all and perceives reality in black and white, the owl’s colors are not distinguished. Their pupil expands and narrows not only when the light changes, but also during breathing.


The white owl is the largest predator of the polar strip. Females in size and weight are superior to males.

The wingspan of an adult individual reaches one and a half meters, and the weight of large females is up to 2 kilograms. It is not easy to see a predator in the snow, as the feather color of adult birds is almost completely white, only small and rare black spots are visible. In females, pestrin is usually larger, and old males are completely white, without taking into account a few black stripes on the tail.

Due to the existence in conditions of extreme cold, the plumage of the polar owl is very thick and warm, the legs are covered with a thin feather, resembling wool, and even the beak is almost completely hidden under the small feathers.

The head of a polar owl can turn 270 degrees so that it does not hide from its keen eyes. However, more often a predator on the low-level flight combs the tundra, and, seeing a prey, catches up and grabs it. In this case, if the victim is larger than a hunter, for example, a hare, then having bitten its claws, the white owl will hang on it until it stops resisting, and then finishes off with a powerful beak. Small prey is eaten by the predator entirely on the spot, the larger one is torn to pieces by claws.

Lifestyle and nutrition

The white owl is spread throughout the tundra zone. In winter, in search of food, it migrates to the forest-tundra zone and the steppes, it is rare in the forests. On wintering sticks to open areas, sometimes flies into settlements. The migrations begin in September – October, in the south the owl stays until March – April. Some individuals remain in the nesting sites for the winter, choosing areas with a small amount of snow and ice.

The white owl is an active predator. The basis of its food is mouse-like rodents, primarily lemmings. During the year, one owl eats more than 1600 lemmings. It also catches hares, pikas, small predators (ermine), birds (white partridges, geese, ducks), does not neglect fish and carrion. The owl does not hunt near the nest, so the birds willingly settle near the owls, which protect their territory from other predators.

The snowy owl hunts, mainly sitting on the ground, preferably on an elevation, and rushing at the approaching prey. In twilight it sometimes hunts even on the fly, trembling in one place in the air, like a kestrel. Although the white owl is not a strictly night bird, hunting trips usually fall early in the morning or evening. The victim is usually pursued in the hijacking. Owls swallow small prey entirely, large ones are carried away to themselves and are torn to pieces on the spot by claws.

The white owl hunts for partridges, and especially for rodents-lemmings. In preparation for the hunt, an owl sits on a hill or flies over the tundra by a slow and low flight. They can hunt on the fly and even grab a prey from the surface of the water. The owl, having seen the prey, flaps its wings, flies up to it and grabs it with sharp claws. Small rodents are swallowed whole. If you manage to grab a large prey, the owl tears to pieces and then eats, belching bone and hair in the form of small lumps. On the day of the predator must eat at least four rodents.

The bird of prey attacks hares, ducks, partridges, has time to catch up with the ermine, loves fish, does not shun carrion. A polar owl never hunts near its nest. This circumstance is used by seagulls, arranging a nest not far from the owl. The bird of prey, already a kilometer away from its nest, begins to drive away predators, and hence from the nest of gulls. In the years of starvation, owls fly over to the forest tundra and steppes, they may even end up in central Russia. But in any case, in March-April, the bird returns to its homeland in order to raise a new generation of chicks. If there is enough food, the predator does not leave the tundra, but it remains to spend the winter at the native nest.


The voice is a clear and sharp cry "Ki-Ki-Ki", as well as a sound like "Kru-Ay", resembling croaking. Male's mating cry is low and deaf, but far-heard barking screams, repeated several times in a row: “Howe .... Howe ...”, for the female - low and deaf “Huu ...”. In case of anxiety at the nest, the male utters jerky and deaf cries - “hhav” or “hhuv” and laughs “ha-ha-ha”, the female publishes a deaf series of cries “hake-hake-hak” or a short croaking-hissing cry. Tears loud and hoarsely whistling.

White owls have a full annual moult. The sequence of changing the primary flywheels is from rear to front.

Adult birds molt from the second half of the breeding period, between the end of June or the beginning of July and late autumn. The owl's plumage is fully updated in October - early November. The first autumn plumage of the young is worn in late September - early October.

In culture

The polar owl is a very interesting bird, sly and clever. Probably not in vain, JK Rowling in her series of Harry Potter novels introduced such a character as Buckle. By the way, after the appearance of the Harry Potter books, there were a lot of people who wanted to have such a bird in their homes. True, at home it is difficult to maintain, it is not a parrot, because it needs a lot of space. But in zoos, another thing. There owls are very well settled. They even live there much longer. If in natural conditions the polar owl rarely lives to 10 years, then in the zoo they feel great even at 20 and even at 25 years old. So if you want to see this miracle with your own eyes, go ahead to the zoo. Well, if you find yourself in the Arctic, you always carry a camera with you in an easily accessible place, because the polar owl likes to appear unexpectedly.

Owls content at home

Today it has become almost fashionable to keep the houses of various exotic animals and birds. If earlier lovers were limited to rare breeds of dogs and cats, now in a usual city apartment you can meet crocodiles, reed cats and birds of prey.

People buy owls in the notorious “Bird Market” or bring owls from the forest, believing that they are “lost”, “have fallen out of the nest».Before you get an owl, think carefully, weigh your possibilities - do they coincide with desires?

Owl is a night predator. Already it says a lot - the main activity of the bird is in the late evening, at night and in the early morning. At this time, owls in nature hunt. So it will be in captivity too - from evening to morning the owl will rattle something, shout (especially during the mating season) preventing you from resting. So to get an owl is best for people who lead a predominantly "nocturnal" lifestyle. Now let's deal with the concept of "predator." It is clear that one cannot feed such birds with grain, predators feed on meat. But even here the difficulty is that the owl’s digestion is arranged in such a way that it needs to eat the entire carcass of a rodent or the bird as a whole - with feathers, fur, bones. Accordingly, feeding chicken meat or beef disappears - get ready to purchase mice, day-old chickens, quails. And they cost a lot.

How to prepare a room for the owl

First of all, remove all items that an owl can knock over, tear, stain. Owls love to play, so you have to strictly monitor the location of their belongings, especially socks and documents. Leave unattended - the owl will certainly pick up a “toy” and farewell to the passport! Tulle on the windows should be replaced with thick curtains, because an owl in a tulle can easily become tangled and, while it beats, it will break its paws or wings, or it will simply die, hanging for several hours upside down. Large mirrors (windows too) should be removed or curtain, otherwise the owl can be crippled, trying to fly through the glass.

“Prisads” should be nailed to the walls - wooden or iron “sticks”, which are necessarily upholstered with something soft — for example, artificial grass or carpet. Just think in advance about the place for the bathing place - owls like to wash, for this they put shallow wide containers with water (trays for cat litter with high sides are perfect).

How to behave

When you first come home with an owl, do not frighten the bird, let it look around. To do this, simply open the box and for a while leave the bird alone.

After a couple of hours, you can offer the owl feed and water. Sometimes owls still can not tear the carcass, so the carcass should be finely chopped. Put the water in such a way that the owlet can see it perfectly - when he turns his attention to the swimsuit - chat in the water with his hand, thus showing the presence of water in the tank. Over time, the owlet will determine whether there is water, but while it is small and in an unusual environment, it should be given much more attention, while not disturbing or frightening - try not to take it in hand, not to make excessively sharp movements. , do not shout. Offer food always from hand - so the owl will get used to you faster.


Carefully follow the digestion and appearance of the pet. After each meal, the owl should discard the beast. The bastard is undigested bones, wool and feathers that the birds spit up about 10 hours after feeding. If there is no casting - this is a cause for concern about the health of the pet. You should also examine the pellets - there should not be any blood on them, the granule should not smell bad.

Pay attention and litter - normal owl droppings - it is a white "puddle" with a small patch of dark, more solid litter. If litter gets a bad smell, yellow or brown color, becomes more liquid - contact your veterinarian. The normal behavior of a healthy owl is very different from the behavior of a sick one. The sick bird loses its appetite, becomes apathetic, sits for hours, eyes closed, squints, half-covering the eyes with the lower eyelid, the feather, especially under the tail, sticks together and becomes dirty. All of the above is a sign of illness. Therefore, in such cases, the owl should be shown to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Diseases of birds occur rapidly, you can not lose a minute.

Character and way of life

The voice of the birds is sharp and jerky, with hoarse barking vocal sounds. But outside the breeding season, birds are rather silent. This trait, along with fast and silent flight, makes the white owl a dangerous predator.

As an inhabitant of the polar zone, the birds are forced to hunt in conditions around the clock. But since the owls' vision is not adapted to bright light, they choose the time of twilight for hunting.

The white owl prefers to look out for the victim from the dais, vigilantly watching its movement on the ground. Then takes off and overtakes the prey, grabbing hooked claws. Sometimes it waits for the right moment to attack right in the air, fluttering in one place. Hunting away from the nesting site, which zealously protects against predators.

Mating season and offspring

The white owl leads a solitary lifestyle, and during the nesting period it creates monogamous or disposable couples, depending on the region.

The mating season begins in early spring. After complex courtship rituals and creating a pair, in mid-May eggs are laid up to 5-8 pieces, and in particularly prosperous years around 15. For the nest of the owl, they choose holes in dry soil on a hilly or brook-covered landscape. The bottom is sometimes lined with dry plants, moss and down.

The female lays eggs not in one day, but intermittently. Therefore, the young are uneven-aged. The last eggs warm the first hatched chicks while the parents hunt. Often, only the elder owls remain alive, who in the years of hunger eat their younger brothers.

Kids begin to fly in 4-6 weeks. By this time, in the vicinity there are already enough lemmings that just come out of the shelter for reproduction. Thanks to them, young birds are provided with food and quickly learn to hunt. In puberty come through the year.

Interaction with the inhabitants of the tundra

The main enemies of the polar white owl are the arctic fox and skua. It is necessary to protect clutch and helpless cubs from them. Bravely blocking the path of the predator, the bird flaps its wings in front of its face. If this does not help, then leave the road, then collapse from above, grab the claws by the withers, lift into the air and drop from the height to the ground. On the other hand, the owls themselves attack the offspring of the arctic fox.

If a person or a dog comes close to the nest, the owl also fearlessly becomes the guardian of its offspring, spreading its wings to appear larger. At such moments, the feathered can make shrill screams and attack from above, using sharp claws and beak.

The owl protects the territory within a radius of 1 km from its nest, and does not hunt in this area. This is used by some birds, arranging nests under her care. For this white predator nicknamed goose shepherd. By the way, in this way it contributes to the reproduction of tundra birds.

Interesting Facts

The angle of rotation of the head of a white owl is 270 degrees.

По результатам эксперимента, полярная сова способна распознать добычу в темноте на расстоянии 340 м от свечи.

Истребляя грызунов, сова регулирует их численность, активно участвуя в становлении экосистемы тундры.

Популяция этого вида немногочисленна, однако исчезновение на сегодняшний день ему не угрожает.

The location of the spots in the bird's plumage is unique, like human fingerprints.

The white owl lives in its natural habitat for about 10–15 years; in home maintenance, life expectancy increases to 30 years.

The image of a polar owl serves as the emblem of New Urengoy and a symbol of the Canadian province of Quebec.

Did you like the article? Share facts about the life of the white owl on your page or tell in the comments what else you know about this bird.

Description of the polar owl

It should be noted that the females of the polar owl are larger and heavier than the males. The torso height is: for males - 54-66 cm, females - 60-70 cm. Owls: male - 2.1-2.5 kilograms, females - up to 3 kilograms. Wingspan ranges from 140 to 175 centimeters.

The special structure of feathers, creating turbulence, allows you to make silent flights.

The color of the feathers is patronizing, that is, protective. This type of coloring makes the polar owl almost invisible against the background of the natural habitat, which is a passive type of protection from predators and camouflage during hunting. The plumage in chicks is brown, in adult owls white with brown specks scattered throughout the body, sometimes with brown stripes, transversely. There are more brown specks in females than males. Some of the males are completely white. The drawing of feathers in each individual is unique, like fingerprints in humans.

The paws of the polar owls have thick shaggy plumage and black large claws. The bill is hook-shaped, black, covered with fine bristles and practically hidden under the head feathers. The head is spherical, with small inconspicuous ears. Able to rotate 270 degrees, which allows you to see in three dimensions. The small size of the ears does not prevent the polar owls from having excellent hearing. They are able to hear sounds of 2 Hertz.

Eyes are round, different shades of yellow. Visual acuity is several dozen times higher than in humans. A group of biologists studying white owls conducted a series of experiments and obtained stunning results. These birds of prey are able to detect prey in the weak candlelight, at a distance of 350 meters from it. Such magnificent sight allows owls to hunt successfully in the period of the polar night.

Beak and eyes of a polar owl.

The voice is sharp, staccato. A cry of a polar owl looks like a jerky croak or barking.

Polar owls molt 2 times a year - at the beginning of summer and at the end of autumn. Fully winter plumage appears by the end of November. The youngsters don their first adult plumage at the junction of September and October.

Lives: in nature, on average 10 years, in captivity - up to 30.

Where does the polar owl live?

The habitat of the polar owl is referred to by biologists as circumpolar, that is, including the arctic zones of both hemispheres. Inhabits the tundra zones of the Eurasian and North American continents, on the islands of Greenland, Wrangel, Novaya Zemlya, Kolguev, Bering and other Arctic islands. Polar owls overwinter to the south, reaching during the flight zone of deciduous forests. For wintering it chooses open areas, rarely flies into populated areas. They move to wintering at the end of September and stay there until the end of March. Sometimes owls stay for the winter where they nest, preferring areas with a thin layer of ice or snow. In the spring, polar owls return to the Arctic for breeding and hatch.

The polar owl belongs to partially sedentary birds. Sometimes it roams, depending on the thickness of the snow cover, the wealth of hunting grounds and other conditions.

Hunting and prey

A polar owl is a clever, clever hunter. The main prey is lemmings. It also hunts for: pikas, hedgehogs, hares, ermines, other arctic birds, Arctic fox cubs. Often, do not shrink from seafood, bird eggs and carrion.

  • Lemmings are rodents of the hamster family, weighing up to 80 grams, inhabiting tundra and forest tundra.
  • Pike - small mammals from the family of lagomorphs. Externally similar to hamsters. Are not rodents. Received its name for the ability to produce specific sounds. A lot of pika reaches three hundred grams.
  • Ermine is a predatory animal from the family of weasels. It has a long lean body. It looks like a caress, but larger in size. The weight of an ermine is 80-250 grams. See photos of ermine.
  • The arctic fox or arctic fox is a predator of the dog family, similar to the fox. In winter, acquires a white color. In the summer, it sheds and turns brown. Body weight from 3 to 9 pounds. Males are larger than females. Arctic foxes are omnivores.

Polar owls prefer to hunt at a considerable distance from their nests. This behavior led to an unusual phenomenon. Other species of polar birds, usually gulls, often build their nests next to the nests of the polar owl. Scaring the owl from its nest of predators, thereby protecting from attack and other people's nests. A white owl guards its nest within a radius of one kilometer. On the day, one polar owl eats on average 4 rodents, and about 1,500 per year, respectively.

Polar owls prefer to hunt in open spaces, with the absence of tall plants, as the victim is hard to see in them. The mechanism of hunting is as follows: an owl sitting on a dais or hovering above the ground, tracks down prey, then swoops down on it and kills with its powerful claws, sometimes with the help of its beak.

In the morning or evening twilight prefers air hunting.

Small victims of polar owls are swallowed whole, large ones are torn to pieces with a beak and then eaten. The wool of the prey, as well as their claws and the bones of the bird, belch.

In those years when the lemming population is declining, polar owls organize attacks on bird markets and cause damage to the population of polar birds.

A polar owl with prey.

Enemies of the polar owl

Polar owls and arctic foxes often attack each other's offspring. Arctic foxes are hauling from owl nests; owls, in turn, attack immature puppies.

Polar owls, fiercely protect their nest from anyone approaching, including from humans. The male is particularly active in protecting the nest. The tactics of defense may be different, the bird chooses it depending on the situation. A snowy owl can rise into the air and pounce on an uninvited guest, threateningly clicking a beak and making sounds that look like crows cawing. And it can stay on the ground and fluff up feathers in order to appear larger, making short jumps to a potential enemy, also threatening with intimidating sounds.

Population Security. Value for nature

The population of polar owls is not numerous. Per 100 square kilometers, usually nest up to 50 pairs. A large number lives on Wrangel Island. It is of great importance for the ecological system of the Arctic, as it maintains a stable population of lemmings and provides safe nesting for other polar birds.