Breeding Season Begins

When breeding season kicks off at our study site near Utqiagvik, AK, temperatures usually hover around freezing and the tundra is still snow covered. Although daylight hours are dramatically increasing, it still feels a lot like winter. These aren’t conditions we typically associate with nesting, yet for Snowy Owls, the clock is ticking on the short window of opportunity that the Arctic summer provides.

When male Snowy Owls arrive at their coastal breeding grounds, they get right to work. The first order of business is to establish a territory and defend it with vigilance. When another male challenges his boundaries, they will stand facing each other, bow forward, and hoot back and forth in a display designed to catch the attention of a female.

When a male finds a prospective female, he’ll try to win her over with a courtship flight – flying in an exaggerated, undulating pattern, up and down like waves. After this he might offer her a lemming – the Snowy Owl’s primary prey in the Arctic. He presents it and waits for her response. Sometimes the female accepts the food right away. Other times, he must repeat his offer several times before winning her over, if at all.

Once a male and female solidify their seasonal relationship, the rest of the nesting process may seem like a forgone conclusion – but it’s not so simple. Stay tuned to find out why.


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