TEMPORARY CLOSURE: The zoo is closed until further notice following city and state recommendations to help slow the spread of coronavirus. Read More


Snowy Owl Fact Sheet

  • Latin Name

    Nyctea scandiaca
  • Class

  • Order

  • Range

    The snowy owl can be found throughout the icy habitats encircling the North Pole, including Alaska, Greenland, Canada, Scandinavia and Russia. During the winter, they will venture further south in search of food.

  • Status

    Common. Lincoln Park Zoo cooperatively manages snowy owl populations with other institutions in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

  • Habitat

    This cold-weather species typically inhabits open tundra and meadows.

  • Niche

    This flying predator feeds predominantly on lemmings and mice, although rabbits, birds and fish are also part of its diet. Most owls hunt at night, but the snowy owl is diurnal, displaying the bulk of its activity during the day. The species can locate prey visually or through its sharp sense of hearing.

  • Life History

    Snowy owl females lay their eggs in simple bowls scraped into the ground. Both parents cooperate in bringing food to the chicks, and they also protect their young by dive-bombing predators that approach the nesting site.

  • Special Adaptations

    • The species' strong talons and sharp beak enable it to firmly grasp and tear the mammals and small birds it catches.
    • The feathers the snowy owl uses to fly are serrated at their tips. This muffles the noise the bird makes when it flaps its wings, enabling it to sneak up on prey quietly.
    • The snowy owl's sense of hearing is so acute that it can locate mammals under heavy vegetation or snow. The bird's ears are placed asymmetrically on its head, enabling it to use the differences between each ear's perception of sound to home in on prey.
    • The snowy owl's dense coat of feathers extends all the way to its toes to provide insulation from the cold.


Sign Up for ZooMail Weekly

Get the latest on upcoming events, new arrivals and more!

All Content © Lincoln Park Zoo.

2001 North Clark Street • Chicago, IL 60614 • 312-742-2000

Get Map/Directions Call 312-742-2000

your zoo is...