In late May, females begin to incubate their eggs after digging out a nest bowl on the treeless tundra. During the incubation period, the female remains relatively hidden on the patchy, snow covered ground. But when the snow melts, they become a conspicuous white spot on the brown and green landscape.
At the onset of incubation, female Snowy Owls lose the feathers along their lower breast and belly – developing what is called a brood patch. The female’s bare skin allows more direct transfer of heat to the eggs and helps keep them at the perfect temperature for proper development.
A female Snowy Owl will lay 3 – 11 white eggs asynchronously – or not at the same time. The incubation period is about 32 days and begins as soon as the first egg is laid. The egg that was laid first will be the first to hatch, so it may hatch up to three days before the second one.
Every day or so, a new chick, called a nestling, will emerge from its shell. Chicks are equipped with a special bump on the front of their beak called an egg tooth. The egg tooth is used to crack and break apart the shell so the chick can emerge.