Snowy Owls: The Perfect Aerial Predator for the Arctic
The Silent, Tranquil, and Elusive Snowy Owl
Snowy Owls...they're elusive, secretive, and a silent predator. Only a handful of animals can exist in the frigid, bleak Arctic region. The Snowy Owl has adapted to this open, perilous environment perfectly.
Though the Snowy Owl is globally known, not much is known about their global population. Ongoing research will help tell more about these animals.
Be sure to add your sighting to the Guestbook at the bottom to document your Snowy Owl sighting! Intro photo of Snowy Owl by Fool on the Hill.
Snowy Owls - (Bubo Scandiacus, previously Nyctea Scandiaca)
Snowy Owls are a bird native to the unwelcoming, icy Arctic Tundra. In the months of warmer months of summer, these owls will stay within the Arctic Circle range. In the winter, the owls will migrate south to Canada, Russia, Greenland, Finland, Norway, France, and Scotland. They often visit the Great Plains of the Midwestern US. Some very rare cases documented migration in Florida, Texas, and internationally, South America and Bermuda. While venturing away from their home grounds, they typically will seek out areas similar to the Arctic tundra--wide open expanses, marshes, farms. Snowy Owls are seldom found in thick, tree-filled areas.
These magnificent birds are typically white with brown markings, and bright yellow and black eyes. The male snowy owls are smaller and have fewer markings then their larger female counterparts, which can be substantially darker and larger.
In the distance...a duck. In the foreground...a hungry swooping Snowy Owl!
Once thought of by many as tuft-less owls, they have now been categorized in the same family as the Great Horned Owls. Though the snowy owls tufts (or ears, as some people may refer to them) are not always erect, they can be seen on occasion. You may be thinking this behavior these is related to hearing, but that doesn't seem to be true! However, they do seem to become erect when they get irritated.
Snowy Owls typically are around 23-26" and between 40-70 ounces. A banding system helps keep track of some Snowy Owls across the world, but there are only so many volunteers and workers to keep track of this! Since this bird is so secretive, this makes your first-hand accounts even more important.
Picture by doviende
It's not easy to see a snowy owl, especially if you don't live near their migratory areas. Be sure to describe any sightings you've had of Snowy Owls in our guestbook below, as well as voting here!
Have you ever seen a Snowy Owl (not including zoos, museums, etc)?
Snowy Owls in the Tundra
Based on their habitat, Snowy Owls are generally seen perched on the ground, resembling flat grassy tundra area. An interesting adaptation for snowy owls is related to there being no trees in the Arctic for roosting. Therefore a snowy owl, like all owls, must stay alert and is never truly in a deep sleep. Since they roost on the ground, this is a large factor in why they must remain so alert. Snowys are constantly moving their head, checking out their surroundings ensuring that there are no predators nearby that may be looking to prey on them.
They also have small, super-fine feathers. These are so fine, in fact, that some people may think that it is fur. This helps give them the ability to withstand very cold temperatures. The feathers extend down the foot and toes of these birds to protect their feet from the icy grassland they call home. They have long pointed wings and hunt similar to falcons, taking prey on the wing.
Like Vice Grips!
Snowys have super-strong toes to catch and crush their prey...around 200 pounds of pressure per toe! They're fast, too, for an owl-- around 70 mph!
Snowy Owls on the Web - Check out these useful and informative Snowy Owl links!
Here are more Snowy Owl links on the web!
- Arctic Studies Center
The Arctic Studies Center invites you to explore the history of northern peoples, cultures, and environments and the issues that matter to northern residents today.
- The Owl Pages
Owls have fascinated man from time immemorial - to some cultures they are symbols of wisdom, while to others they are harbingers of doom and death. Here, The Owl Pages sheds some light on these mysterious creatures...
- Snowy Owls on Wikipedia
The Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) is a large owl of the typical owl family Strigidae. It is also known in North America as the Arctic Owl or the Great White Owl.
- Pictures of Snowy Owls
Check out SNOWIES, a short film (12 mins) about snowy owls by Elliot Kennerson that is free to view online for anybody. Denver Holt, one of Montana's foremost owl researchers, appears in the film. The film documents an unusually large congregation of
What do Snowy Owls Eat?
The range of diet for the Snowy
Snowy owls typically feed on lemmings, mice and rats, though it has been documented that they will prey on black ducks, Canadian Geese, short eared owls, American Kestrels, Starlings, Great Blue Herons, and even other Snowy Owls!
Snowy Owl Videos - See this majestic bird in flight!
Snowy Owl Satellite Tracking - Keeping track of Snowy Owls to learn more about this mysterious bird
There are currently several projects being conducted in the United States studying the migrating patterns and breeding habits of the snowy owls. Some researchers have started using satellite telemetry to track Snowy Owls. to track these beautiful creatures between their wintering grounds and their breeding grounds.
Not much is know about the global population of this species, so they are currently not labeled endangered. Satellite tracking will help us tell more about this elusive species. Snowy Owls are a federally protected species under the migratory bird act. See the links below for more information.
- Satellite tracking of Norwegian Snowy Owls
Snowy owls equipped with satellite transmitters in 1999 in Barrow, Alaska, crossed the Bering Strait the following autumn and spent the next summer along the Russian Arctic coast. One year later they were back in Arctic Canada! Due to the satellite t
- Donate to the Snowy Owl Project
Help get more satellite trackers on Snowy Owls so more can be learned about this elusive species! Visit this page, and be sure to specify "Snowy Owl Project" as the project you wish to support when donating!
Photo right: by Steve B.
Snowy owls breed in the Arctic Circle range, often in Alaska. Barrow, Alaska has been a huge Snowy breeding ground. In a lifetime, females will breed 1-9 chicks. If prey is scarce, they will not breed that year and wait it out until the next year. Eggs will be incubated in rotations to ensure different hatch times, therefore increasing the chance of survival. Snowys will have different mates each year, and do not mate for life.
A Snowy Owl from the backside gazing out on the open water for prey
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Photo by hisgett.
The perfect lookout to spot the next meal for this Snowy Owl
Recommended Snowy Owl Books - Read more about this amazing Arctic bird!
Read up more on Snowy Owls with these Amazon books!
How can you Help the Snowy Owl?
Ways to help out the Snowy Owl...
Snowy Owls are so elusive that it's important to document sightings! This will help establish their range, where they are at certain points of the year, and ultimately, will help determine a global population. Spread the word about Snowy Owls and keep them educated! Please leave any Snowy Owl sightings in the Guestbook at the bottom of this page.
How Will Global Warming Affect Snowy Owls?
Loss of habitat due to rising sea levels will surely not be to Snowy Owls' advantage. Be sure to read the World Wildlife Federation's recommendations on stopping global warming.
Picture by Fool on the Hill
Help the Snowy Owls!
To help them, we need to learn more about them! Help by donating to the Snowy Owl Satellite Tracking Project!
Like Snowy Owls? Have you seen one and would like to share the experience? Help document them by telling us about your sightings! Just want to say hello? Drop a line here!
Do you have a Snowy Owl picture of your own you'd like featured here? Contact us and we can possibly include the picture along with a link to your page right here!
Recommended Owl Books (for more information on the Snowy and other species) - Well reviewed classic and highly informative owl guides
These informative owl guides, childrens books, and owl stories are some of the best ones out there on the Snowy Owl, as well as other owl species.
Authentic Bird Sound Plush Snowy Owl
Plush squeeze bird which sounds off the real bird call. Enjoyment for kids and adults alike. 6.00 inches tall x 4.50 inches long x 9.00 inches wide.
Harry Potter Plush Hedwig Owl - Stands 8 inches tall - hurry while supplies last!
Harry Potter Hedwig Plush. This adorable plush measures about 8 inches tall and 7 inches wide. This ultra soft owl captures Harry's pet perfectly and is recommended for ages 8 and older.
Snowy Owl Build-A-Bear Workshop - ~ 50% donated to First Book for every purchase!
This stuffed animal owl can turn it's head! For every purchase of Turner Owl we will donate 50% to First Book to provide new books to children from low-income families & 50% to the Build-A-Bear Workshop Bear Hugs Foundation to support other literacy & education programs.
Ty Beanie Baby - Summit the Snow Owl - ~ Quality plush stuffed owl from Ty!
Inside the tag reads: I just love soaring way up high As if my wings could touch the sky Don't worry, I'll swoop down again Because I've spotted you, my friend !
Webkinz Snowy Owl - ~ Go online with your virtual pet!
Webkinz pets are very special plush animals. Each Webkinz pet comes with a secret code that allows the owner to log into the website and adopt a virtual version of their pet. With this code as their key, children can join Webkinz World without giving out any personal information such as e-mail, last name or phone number.