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Friday 22 August 2014

Wise owls at zoo make it a snowy Christmas

Grainne Cunningham

Published 07/12/2012 | 05:00

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A WHITE Christmas has come early to Dublin Zoo with the arrival of two snowy owls at the Fringes of the Arctic enclosure.

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But the chances of welcoming some baby owls in the spring remains a mystery as it is too early to determine whether the pair are male or female.

The birds, which were born in Linton Zoo in the UK, are less than a year old, and their gender may not be known until they are two or three.

Team leader Eddie O'Brien explained that it is only possible to tell their gender from their colouring, with adult males characterised by a fully white plumage, while females and young birds are speckled.

And if they do have any young, the male opts out completely, leaving the female to care for the eggs and rear the young solo.

All snowy owls have yellow eyes and black beaks and feed on a diet of mice, frogs and other small rodents which the zoo buys in frozen form and then defrosts for their dinners.

The zoo already has a snowy owl, but the female is now past breeding age so she has been moved to a different enclosure because they are territorial birds.

Members of the public can spot the new owls around the penguin's enclosure, where they are likely to divide their time between the rocks and roosting high in the trees.

As natives of the Arctic, they have no problem with the cold weather, with thick feathers coating their feet so they don't get frostbite even if it snows.

The zoo plans to invite suggestions for their new names via its Facebook page in the coming weeks.

Irish Independent

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