By Ben Rodgers
SUAMICO – Those who are still waiting for their acceptance letter into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry will find this month’s Animal of the Month similar to a famous feathered friend.
Bubo (pronounced boo-bow) is a 10-month old snowy owl who arrived at the NEW Zoo in early April.
“Snowy owls are really popular in pop culture so people relate to them a little more,” said Drew Dinehart, zookeeper.
In JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books, the young wizard is gifted a snowy owl named Hedwig, who delivers mail and messages.
However, the movies lied to fans, because Hedwig, a female, is all white. In reality, only males like Bubo develop the pure white coat of feathers when they become older.
Bubo currently has bands of black feathers horizontally among his white coat, and that’s to help him survive in the wild.
“Juvenile snowy owls do have the most banding and that is a camouflage mechanism to blend into the tundra,” Dinehart said. “A solid color really stands out.”
Though the Green Bay area is on the southern edge of the winter habitat for the owls, they reside most of the year in the treeless northern tundra.
There birds like Bubo typically dine on seven to 12 mice and/or lemmings a day.
At the NEW Zoo, Bubo is fed a diet of roughly 10 mice a day, sometimes with a rat or some fish thrown in.
Bubo is suited well for the NEW Zoo because he was born in captivity at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, and is used to people.
Also, because snowy owls are from the tundra where there are many days with little darkness, snowy owls are diurnal, which means they are active during the daytime.
“They are active during the day and adaptive to where they live, which is nice for a zoo bird because they are active during the day when we are busy,” Dinehart said.
Unlike other birds, snowy owls also tend to nest on the ground, due to their native habitat.
Bubo is no different and has already picked out a favorite spot near the fence so visitors can have a good look.
The owl lives in an exhibit that was previously home to game birds like grouse.
“We had this exhibit we were looking to do something different with when we asked the SSP (Species Survival Plan) if they had any owls that needed placement and they said they did,” Dinehart said.
It’s unknown at this time if the NEW Zoo will get a female snowy owl to live with Bubo, but Dinehart wouldn’t rule it out.
As the zookeeper who will primarily work with Bubo, Dinehart said he’s been a wonderful bird so far.
“He’s just a really great addition to this space,” he said. “He has done fairly well with large crowds of people… It’s really nice to see he’s a well-adjusted bird.”