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I suspect that the plumage differences are related to breeding behavior.   Female snowies do most or all of the incubating and chick brooding, so they are on the nest on the open tundra, and some dark patterns on their feathers may help to camouflage them.   Male snowies are the defenders of the territory, and "want" to be seen by other snowies and potential intruders, so being bright white aids this purpose.  Sexual plumage differences might also help the owls identify each other from a distance.  

Ellie George,
Paradox, NY 

-----Original Message-----
From: Vermont Birds [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of VTBIRD automatic digest system
Sent: Thursday, February 15, 2018 12:00 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: VTBIRD Digest - 13 Feb 2018 to 14 Feb 2018 (#2018-43)

There is 1 message totaling 54 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

  1. VTBIRD Digest - 12 Feb 2018 to 13 Feb 2018 (#2018-42)

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Date:    Wed, 14 Feb 2018 12:49:56 -0500
From:    Ian Miyashiro <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: VTBIRD Digest - 12 Feb 2018 to 13 Feb 2018 (#2018-42)

Most male Snowys phase out most of the black when they reach maturity around five years. The females and immature birds use the black for camouflage against the rocks, ice, and snow of the tundra, the male's white feathers assist in camouflage against the sky.



*Ian T. Miyashiro*
[log in to unmask]
415-297-5677

“If you take care of the birds, you take care of most of the big problems in the world.”
-Thomas Lovejoy

On Wed, Feb 14, 2018 at 12:00 AM, VTBIRD automatic digest system < [log in to unmask]> wrote:

> There is 1 message totaling 11 lines in this issue.
>
> Topics of the day:
>
>   1. Snowy in Bridport
>
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> Date:    Tue, 13 Feb 2018 15:24:05 -0500
> From:    Jean Arrowsmith <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Snowy in Bridport
>
> The SNOW was seen Tuesday morning fr0m Basin Harbor Rd.  north of the 
> intersection with Crown Point Road, on the west side of the road, on a 
> fence post in a swale.  This is a white bird, and my question is why 
> the immature have dark feathering?  I know that black feathers are 
> stronger, but can’t make the next step.  The dark feathers make the 
> bird more conspicuous against snow.
>
> ------------------------------
>
> End of VTBIRD Digest - 12 Feb 2018 to 13 Feb 2018 (#2018-42)
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>

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End of VTBIRD Digest - 13 Feb 2018 to 14 Feb 2018 (#2018-43)
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