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Arctic Wings

Arctic Wings

Arctic Wings is a tribute to the birds that live and breed in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The forward is by Jimmy Carter, and essayists include Gretel Ehrlich, David Allen Sibley, and Peter Matthiessen. The book was awarded the National Outdoor Book Award for design and artistic merit.

Each chapter focuses on a major group of birds, including loons and waterfowl, hawks and shorebirds, gulls and terns, and owls and songbirds. Also included is a CD of the birdsongs of the refuge.

ORI President Denver Holt contributed the “Owls” chapter of the book. Because the book features the Arctic and Subarctic life zones of North America, the owl chapter is limited to six species: Great Horned Owl, Snowy Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, Great Gray Owl, Short-eared Owl, and Boreal Owl.

Denver drew from 16 years of research to write the section about Snowy Owls. Here are some tidbits from the book:

Diet. Although Snowy Owls can kill Arctic Fox and White-fronted Geese, their main food source is the two-ounce Brown Lemming (97% of diet). In fact, Snowy Owls don’t breed unless lemmings are abundant.

Plumage. Adult males are brilliant white; females are speckled brown on white. The owls also have densely packed feathers on the legs and around the bill. Their plumage can withstand temperatures of -40’F.


Overwintering. Snowies can spend entire winters on the Arctic coastal plain or out on the pack ice. However, scientists still don’t know what Snowies eat during long, cold Arctic months.

Learn more about Arctic Wings (editor Stephen Brown) at Mountaineers Books.

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