Snowy owl in exhibit
Scientific Name
Bubo scandiacus
Geographic Range
Russia, Fennoscandia, Canada, Alaska, Iceland, Greenland, and northern Asia
Small mammals, especially lemmings (also, small birds)
Snowy owl in exhibit Endangered Status Graph - Vulnerable Endangered Status Graph - Vulnerable

More Information

Snowy owls are large birds of prey, measuring between 20–28 inches long and weighing up to 6.5 pounds on average. Males are all white with some brown spots; females and juveniles are white with darker barring throughout their plumage, except on their face. Males become whiter as they age. Both sexes have yellow eyes and a sharp, black beak. Their legs are covered with dense feathering. These owls have good vision and hearing to locate prey and spend much of their time sitting in a single spot. They may dive-bomb potential threats.

The mostly solitary birds prefer treeless areas and nest on windswept rises on the open tundra. They are most active during dawn and dusk but have been known to forage during the day. They form monogamous pairs. Breeding takes place in the summer; three to 11 eggs are laid, then incubated for about a month by the females. Males protect the site and bring food to their mates. Owl young become independent at around six weeks of age and are mature at age 2.

Did You Know?

  • Snowy owls live much of their lives on the Arctic tundra. Some migrate to the southern portions of their range if food is scarce.
  • These owls perform elaborate courtship displays, including a stylized presentation of prey.
  • Their hearing is so acute they can locate animals under snow or heavy vegetation.
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