• Barn Owl
  • Barred Owl
  • Boreal Owl
  • Burrowing Owl
  • Eastern Screech Owl
    Eastern Screech
  • Elf Owl
  • Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
    Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
  • Flammulated Owl
  • Great Grey Owl
    Great Grey
  • Great Horned Owl
    Great Horned
  • Long Eared Owl
  • Northern Hawk Owl
    Northern Hawk
  • Northern Pygmy Owl
    Northern Pygmy
  • Northern Saw-whet Owl
    Northern Saw-whet
  • Short-eared Owl
  • Snowy Owl
  • Spotted Owl
  • Western Screech Owl
    Western Screech
  • Western Screech Owl
    Whiskered Screech Owl

SNOWY OWL (Bubo scandiaus)

Snowy OwlIt’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!

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

  • A large, white owl with bright yellow eyes, a dark beak, and thickly feathered feet

    Males: adult males are pure white
    white with dark bars or spots
    resemble females
  • 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)
  • Range: circumpolar; summer in Arctic, often spend winter in southern Canada, northern U.S.,
    and similar latitudes around the world

    Habitat: tundra, meadows, marshes, dunes; during nesting season, lives on the tundra
  • Mostly lemmings, voles, and other rodents; often birds, sometimes rabbits and other small mammals
  • 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
  • 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
  • Mostly diurnal, but will hunt any time of day in the constant daylight of Arctic summer

Snowy Owl Range Map

Snowy Owl Range Map

Snowy Owl Audio

Snowy Owl Facts

Other Names: Snow Owl
Family: Strigidae
Closest Relative: Great Horned Owl

Conservation Status

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


Learn more about ORI's research on this species.