Snowy Owl

Owl, Snowy


Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae
Genus: Bubo
Species: Scandiacus   


Snowy Owls are very large, white owls with smoothly rounded heads and no ear tufts. Bulky body with dense feathering on the legs and toes. Female Snowy owls have significantly more black/brown camouflage markings.
Males are whiter in color.
All Snowy owls have yellow eyes.


Length: 20 – 28 in. tall
Wingspan: 50 – 57 in. wide
Weight: 56 – 100 oz. (3.5 – 6lbs.)



This species has an extremely large range. Typically found in the northern circumpolar region which includes: U.S., Canada, Russia, and northern European countries.  Snowy owls are seasonal migrants.  They spend summers nesting in the Arctic tundra and migrate south to lower latitudes such as southern Canada and the northern U.S.



Whether the Arctic tundra, the Great Plains, an airport field, or beach dunes, Snowy Owls like treeless places and wide-open spaces.



Preferring wide open treeless spaces, Snowy owls nest directly on the ground, and prefer rolling terrain which allows them to watch out for predators. The female will build the nest, scraping out a shallow depression on the ground.  Egg clutch size ranges from 3 to 11 eggs.  Eggs are laid singly, about every other day. Both parents care for the young which hatch about five weeks after the eggs are laid. Breeding takes place in May to June.



Snowy owls eat mostly small mammals and primarily Lemmings when nesting in the Arctic. However, Snowy owls have a wide range diet of prey on both breeding and wintering grounds and when Lemmings are not as abundant, Snowy owls will prey on ptarmigan, waterfowl, hares, squirrels, etc.


Probably the most unique behavior of Snowy owls is that they are diurnal and not nocturnal. Diurnal means that they are active during the day and rest at night.  When nesting during the summer in the Arctic, there is 24 hours of daylight, and Snowy owls will hunt at all hours of the day. In addition, being in the Arctic during the summer, they hunt while sitting on the ground.

  • The Snowy owl is North America’s heaviest owl, weighing 4lbs. on average.
  • Snowy owls swallow their small prey whole. Strong stomach juices digest the flesh, while the indigestible bones, teeth, fur, and feathers are compacted into oval pellets that the bird regurgitates 18 to 24 hours after feeding.  Biologists examine these pellets to determine the quantity and types of prey the birds have eaten.
  • The Snowy owl has been observed and documented in 40 countries.



IUCN – Least Concern
CITES – Appendix II