Animals / Types of Birds / Owls / Snowy Owl - White, Arctic Bird of Prey

Snowy Owl - White, Arctic Bird of Prey

close up snowy owl


The snowy owl is a beautiful white bird. The white plumage helps them hide in their Arctic habitat. Only the male birds are totally white, the female birds have spotted wings and the chicks are dark colored and spotty. The owls, especially the males, will get whiter and whiter with age. Females never become totally white but elderly males can be 100% white. Their feathers are also long and thick (even covering the talons) which is well-suited for the cold.

The snowy owl is one of the larger owls with a length of up to 28 inches (71 cm) and weighing up to 6.5 lbs (3 kg). They are diurnal, unlike most owls, which means the majority of their activity is in the day time.



mottled black white snowy owl


The snowy owl breeds in the Arctic and a clutch can be between three and eleven eggs. The number of eggs is wholly dependent on food availability and when food is particularly sparse pairs may choose not to mate at all, thus laying no eggs. The parent birds are very territorial and will guard their nest against any potential predators including wolves!


flying snowy owl


The snowy owl is carnivorous and is a very patient predator. They pick a perch, scan for prey and swoop down on it at top speed. They have fantastic eyesight and hearing which helps them find prey hiding in the undergrowth or under thick snow. Their preferred prey is the lemming, which they eat in huge quantities. An adult owl will eat over 1,500 lemmings a year and they supplement this diet with occasional fish, rodents, rabbits and birds.


snowy owlets


The snowy owl sometimes chooses to stay in its Arctic breeding ground for the whole year but they have been known to migrate too. They’re commonly found in Canada, Northern USA, Europe and sometimes Asia. Their migration is highly linked to lemming population and so during the summer months you may find they take up residence in fields, marshes and even beaches.


camo snowy owl


The snowy owl is majestic in flight and when it swoops on its prey, it is deadly. Its wingspan can be up to 4.8 feet (1.5 m). It is well known in popular culture due to the famous Harry Potter novels and Harry’s personal owl: Hedwig!




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