SNOWY OWL

Bubo scandiacus

© KURT LINDSAY

SNOWY OWL FACTS:

Large, white owl with bright yellow eyes, a dark beak, and thickly feathered feet

Males: adult males are pure white


Females: white with dark bars or spots


Young: resemble females

OTHER NAMES: Snow Owl


FAMILY: Strigidae


CLOSEST RELATIVE: Great Horned Owl

SNOWY OWL SIZE:

Females outsize males.

Height: Males 55-64 cm (21-23 in), Females 60-75 cm (22-26 in)

Weight: Males 700-2500g (1.5-5.5 lbs), Females 790-2950 g (2-6.5 lbs)

SNOWY OWL RANGE:

Circumpolar; summer in Arctic, often spend winter in southern Canada, northern U.S.,
and similar latitudes around the world

SNOWY OWL HABITAT:

 

Tundra, meadows, marshes, dunes; during nesting season, lives on the tundra

SNOWY OWL DIET:

Mostly lemmings, voles, and other rodents; often birds, sometimes rabbits and other small mammals

SNOWY OWL VOICE:

Mostly silent, but a wide variety of calls heard around breeding sites

Males: loud, booming “hoo, hooo”; when disturbed, a rapid, “kre-kre-kre”

Females: whistle, mew, or scream

SNOWY OWL NESTING:

Nest Site: on the ground, atop low mounds (1m, 3 ft)

Eggs: 4-8 round, white eggs, laid asynchronously one every 2-3 days

Incubation: 31-33 days

SNOWY OWL HUNTING HABITS:

Mostly diurnal, but will hunt any time of day in the constant daylight of Arctic summer

SNOWY OWL CONSERVATION STATUS: 

Not globally threatened; species of “Least Concern”, but appears to be declining in northern Europe.

SNOWY OWL RESEARCH: 

Read about the Owl Research Institute's Snowy Owl study in RESEARCH.

ALSO OF INTEREST:

• Snowy Owls nest on small mounds in the arctic tundra
• One of the few species of owl that builds its own nest
• It takes several years for males to turn totally white
• Irruptions (great numbers of birds migrating to an area)
take place in the northern US after a productive breeding
year

• Use a ‘wallop’ hunting method - swooping down and
snatching prey with their strong talons
• Fledglings leave the nest and spend nearly a month hiding & toddling around the tundra before they are able to fly
• Food is often delivered to the female by the male during courtship displays

© Ly Dang/nature2pixels.com

SNOWY OWL DISTRIBUTION IN NORTH AMERICA

snowy owl distribution, snowy owl

Maps provided by The Birds of North America Online and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Snowy Owl - Denver Holt
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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: 

It’s no wonder Harry Potter chose this owl to be his right hand man. Snowy Owls- the large, white owls of the north- appear almost magical when seen flying silently overhead. They’re quite mysterious too. Considered nomadic, these hardy hunters travel many miles in search of their favorite foods. Even the scientists who study them never know where they’ll be seen next! Snowy Owls prey mostly on rodents like lemmings, and can show up most anywhere rodent populations are high.

Unlike many other owls, Snowy owls are not nocturnal, and can be seen hunting any time of the day or night. Consider yourself lucky if you spot one though, because these owls tend to inhabit places where humans don’t live.

Snowy Owls spend their summers in the Arctic, hunting and nesting out on the tundra in places few people visit. When moving south in the winter, they don’t choose warm, sunny locations like many other migrating birds do. These snowy white raptors spend their winters where they’ll blend in- on snow-covered farmlands, dunes, or marshes. Most any flat, open land will do… as long as the hunting is good!