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Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl
Bubo scandiacus
(Order: Strigiformes, Family: Strigidae)

Diagnosis: The Snowy Owl may exhibit almost a completely white plumage, with great variation of black barring, sometimes there is none, and sometimes the bird may be barred from the breast to the tail. Primarily diurnal, the owl hunts small rodents and lemmings using a combination of its large yellow eyes and acute hearing. Prey is captured using its heavily feathered talons. The Snowy Owl is also the heaviest owl species in North America, sometimes attaining a weight of 3kg.

Natural History: This species will ferociously defend its nests in the breeding season, which are concave impressions found dug into the ground, commonly fighting off foxes, corvids, other avian predators, dogs, and even wolves. Males usually defend the nest while the females incubate and feed the brood. Females can lay anywhere from 3 to 11 white eggs, and young hatch with closed eyes, covered in white down.

Distribution: Found at the northernmost boundary of the arctic tundra in the summer breeding months, and found in eastern and central United States in the winter. 



Habitat: Northern Plains. Attracted to open areas such as grassland, tundra, and costal dunes


Diet:  Small vertebrates such as rabbits, rodents, voles, lemmings, ptarmigan, prairie dogs, and raccoons. Primarily lemmings durring the breeding season, many birds will consume 3-4 per day.


Conservation status: IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern



Flickr Images:

Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

Lincoln Park Zoo:



Patterson, Micheal J. 2007. An Analysis of Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus): Diet during the 2005 to 2006 Irruption along the Oregon and Washington Coasts. Northwestern Naturalist. Vol. 88, No. 1 pp. 12-14.

Peterson, Roger Tory. 2010. Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North American 6th Edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. pp 196-197, fig 250.

Image Credits:

1.Snowy Owl - © Schnee-Eule


3. © Lincoln Park Zoo


Submitted by:  Andrew Spellmeyer, July, 2011.

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