People passionate about nature

Snowy Owl

How do I recognize it?

The iconic and charismatic Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) or Snowie is larger than a Great Horned Owl, and is white or mostly white. Females are larger than males. Juvenile and adult females have more dark spotting or barring on the white feathers than males. Adult males become increasingly white with age. The eyes are yellow. They are chiefly diurnal.

Is it migratory?

To a degree, yes. Snowy Owl migration is complex and not fully understood. Every year a varying number of individuals arrive in southern Canada, the northern Great Plains, and similar latitudes across the Unites States. Rarely, they may reach California, Texas, Florida, and even Bermuda! Large movements made up of thousands of birds are know as irruptions. Some individuals winter on or near their breeding grounds, often near open water, and sometimes on pack-ice where they hunt sea birds. See more about their migration here.

Where does it live?

Snowy Owls breed on the arctic tundra from above the treeline to the northernmost reaches of Canada and Eurasia. They sometimes nest in coastal areas. Pairs occupy and defend large territories, up to two square kilometers. Nests are located atop a ridge or other prominent geographical feature, and consist of a simple depression in the ground. Up to 11 eggs are laid.

Where can I see it?

Between mid-October and mid-April, Snowy Owls can be found in open areas such as prairie grasslands, marshes (Oak Hammock, Delta) or agricultural fields (Sperling, Sanford, Starbuck, Morris). They are occasionally found in urban industrialized areas. To get an unobstructed view of the surrounding territory they often sit on utility poles, hay bales, or other elevated perches. Check the ground for roosting owls as well, especially on windy days.

Conservation status:

Snowy Owls are protected across Canada. The species is considered to be widespread and abundant by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Some sources suggest that North American populations are decreasing appreciably (based on Christmas Bird Count data), but further study is needed. Climate change and increase resource development in the arctic may prove to be serious threats to this animal's continued success.

Did you know?

Snowy Owls can live nearly 24 years in the wild.