National Geographic : 2002 Dec
The pure white feathers of a male delivering a lemming to his mate (left) do more than keep him warm. They also show that he's fully mature. Males don't lose the gray-brown banding that marks females and juveniles until they're three to four years old, and rarely breed before that. In years of peak lemming abundance, Holt and his team have observed older, highly aggressive males establishing nests with two different females. They hunt for both, and protect two territo ries that may each extend a half mile from their central nest mounds. Bloody from tearing a freshly caught lemming into tiny mouthfuls, the female below fed each of her offspring in turn. Females typically lay eggs two days apart; chicks hatch at roughly the same interval. In a clutch of six or seven eggs, the first chick hatched may be two weeks old before its youngest sibling emerges. "We've seen no signs of competition or favoritism in the nest," Holt says. "Snowy owls nurture all their chicks, even the smallest." Harry Potternovelist J. K. Rowling cast a snowy owl as her orphaned i. Slog across Alaska's tundra hero's courier and companion. That seems perfectly fitting: Swift,log across Alaska's tundra at nationalgeographic.com/ strong, beautiful, and dauntless in caring for their young, these ngm/0212, and meet more winged icons of the Arctic are magically fascinating-to boy wizards of these captivating"power and scientists alike, owls" face-to-face. brave guardians--raise the most chicks.