Snowy Owls’ Shiny Feathers Say “Back Off”

01/13/2011

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It turns out that the bright white plumage of snowy owls is not just for show. In fact, it is a warning signal that tells rival birds to back off, according to recent findings in the International Journal of Avian Science.

Read more at BBC Earth.

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Over 10 winters, researchers from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada and the Museum of Natural Sciences in Spain watched the behavior of snowy owls and learned that owls with the whitest feathers reflected the brightest signals over long distances to protect their territories.

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Researchers observed owls rotating their bodies to face the sun from their perches. Whiter birds maximized their signals from the snow-covered ground, while spotted white owls kept a higher perch.

“The birds constantly shift throughout the day and even change the height of their perch depending on the sun,” explained lead researcher Gary Bortolotti.

Photo Credits:  Alan Carey/Corbis | Barrett & MacKay/All Canada Photos/Corbis  | iStockphoto/Thinkstock |


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