Snowy Owl Breeding Research

Now in its 27th year, our Snowy Owl Breeding Research project is the longest running breeding study in North America. Snowy Owls did not breed in Barrow, AK in 2017, presumably because Lemming numbers were low. Population indexing is currently underway for 2018.

Snowy Owls have a circumpolar breeding distribution associated with Arctic tundra. Here they nest on the ground and are dependent on lemmings for successful breeding. However, lemming numbers fluctuate widely throughout the Arctic in location and time. Thus, in some years, some Snowy Owls may not breed. But when huge numbers of Snowy Owls migrate south into southern Canada and the northern U.S., we know they just had a terrific breeding season, as most of the owls are young of the year, perhaps 5-6 months old.

Our data challenges the long-standing view of regular, predictable lemming “cycles” at Barrow, but clearly lemming populations fluctuate over time. Because lemmings and Snowy Owls are on a downward trend in the Barrow region, our newest research examines this trend in relation to the changing climate. We are currently conducting this analysis in partnership with the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology and with funding from the Charlotte Martin Foundation.

Graph © Owl Research Institute

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square



We welcome all media inquiries. If you are a credentialed member of the media and wish to set up an interview or request further information, please e-mail



We are so grateful to the photographers who capture owls, and our work, in the most amazing ways. They generously share their work with us, and you. Check out the works of some of the photographers whose work is featured on our site! They are incredible talented artists who are committed to wildlife conservation.

Thank you to:

Kurt Lindsay:

Daniel J Cox:

Radd Icenoggle:

Melissa Groo:

Ly Dang:

Tom Murphy:

Deborah Hanson



The ORI is a non-profit, 501(c) 3, tax-exempt organization. We are funded by individual and non-profit  group donations, grants from foundations and corporations, and occasionally agency contracts.

We accept donations of real property. Please consider us in your estate planning.

Donations are tax-deductible to the extent of the law. Our federal tax identification number is 81-0453479.




Charlo, MT 59824


Copyright © 2021-2023 Owl Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved.

  • YouTube Social  Icon
  • Instagram Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • Facebook Social Icon