As the days become shorter and the nights get colder in Maine, the owls here at Chewonki prepare for winter. All of our education ambassador owls are species native to Maine and have found a very special way to survive in Maine even during the winter.
Owls will grow an extra warm layer of feather close to their bodies known as down feathers. Unlike a traditional feather, down feathers are three-dimensional. The small feather branches are arranged on the feather keel so that they radiate in all directions. With this design, the down can store much more air and can, therefore, insulate the owls from cold winter weather.
We often observe the owls with snow on their heads or shoulders and they don’t mind at all with all those warm feathers protecting them. Our owls will also start to eat more and put on what we call their “winter weight” in order to keep themselves plump and warm throughout the winter.
Pictures include Saw-Whet owl Haven, Barred Owl Luna in the snow photo and a photo of down feathers.