Toddling around the tundra

At three weeks of age – and before they can fly – Snowy Owl chicks begin leaving the nest. This may sound dangerous for a young owl, but it probably keeps them safer than staying put. The theory is this: if a predator raids the nest, it could easily eat the entire clutch. Once dispersed on the tundra, however, the chicks are well camouflaged and can spread out to hide from predators. While individuals are certainly vulnerable during this time, overall, their survival rates improve.

Young Snowy Owls spend about a month toddling around the tundra near their nest before they fly. Weight gain has slowed considerably, but changes happen daily. The plumage around their eyes and beak is turning lighter, and it looks like they are wearing a white mask, which we often refer to as their “flight goggles.” They are growing white feathers speckled with dark markings, and their flight and tail feathers are developing rapidly. The beak and talons will be the first things to fully develop.