News

Pair of Snowy Owls Have Landed at John Ball Zoo

John Ball Zoo is excited to announce the arrival of a pair of snowy owls. The male and female snowy owls can now be seen in their newly constructed habitat located in the Forest Realm of the Zoo near the Amur tigers.

The male’s name is Zenon (after Zeno the Greek philosopher). He is about eight years old and arrived from a raptor rehabilitator in the Traverse City area. Due to a shoulder injury, he cannot be released back into the wild because he is unable to fly long distances necessary for survival.

The female’s name is Khione (after the Greek goddess of snow). She is three years old and arrived from a raptor rehabilitator in the central part of Michigan. Her wing was injured in the wild rendering her unable to fly. Guests can tell them apart because males are more uniformly white and smaller than females. Females have a more extensive black speckled pattern.

John Ball Zoo hopes for a mating match as Zenon and Khione are recommended for breeding as part of the snowy owl’s Species Survival Plan (SSP). The SSP oversees the population management of select species within the Associations of Zoos and Aquariums member institutions (i.e., AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, Conservation Partners, and Certified Related Facilities) and to enhance conservation of this species in the wild.

In the wild, snowy owls live in the northern hemisphere around the world, along open fields, tundra, and shorelines. They primarily eat other birds, fish, and small mammals – typically lemmings and mice. Also, unlike many other owl species, snowy owls are active during the day and spend a majority of their time on the ground.

Snowy owls utilize sight, sound and touch to communicate and perceive their environment. Males “hoot” more frequently than females, and seem to use this vocalization in territorial defense and establishment. Males and females also give a variety of other calls, including a “rick, rick, rick”, a “kre kre kre”, a mewing and a hiss.

With an approximate number of 28,000 mature individuals in the wild, the snowy owl’s conservation status is vulnerable. Humans are considered the most prevalent predator of snowy owls. Snowy owls are killed by humans for food, trophies, and to protect game animals. Other predators include foxes, jaegers, and probably dogs, wolves and other avian predators.

John Ball Zoo is located on Fulton Ave. just one mile west of downtown Grand Rapids. Guests can visit 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Sunday. The Zoo recommends purchasing tickets online prior to arrival to make entry quicker and easier. This will save time by not having to visit the ticket window before entering the Zoo. To reserve tickets and for more information, visit jbzoo.org or call (616) 336-4301.