Snowy Owl, Mark Brown
© Mark Brown

Snowy Owl

Basic Facts About Snowy Owls

Snowy owls are mostly white with narrow, sparse brown bars and spots. Their golden colored eyes are rather small for an owl and their toes and claws are thickly covered with feathers. Their dark colored bills are short and strong and sharply pointed. They are among the largest North American owl species.

Snowy Owl, © Mark Brown

© Mark Brown


Snowy owls mainly eat mammals, ranging from small rodents to large hares. They are also known to eat birds ranging in size from small songbirds to medium-sized geese and lemmings. An adult owl may eat around three to five lemmings each day (1,600 per year).


Their local numbers are high when the lemming population they prey on is high and lower when the lemming population is low.


Did You Know?

Snowy owls swallow their prey, such as lemmings, whole!

In North America, snowy owls are found during the breeding season from the western Aleutians in Alaska to northeastern Manitoba (Churchill), northern Quebec and northern Labrador in Canada. In the winter, they can regularly be found in the northern United States. Sporadically they can be found as far south as central California as well as in Texas and Florida.


Unlike most other owl species, snowy owls hunt mainly in the daytime. Snowy owls are highly nomadic and their movements are tied to the abundance of their primary prey species, lemmings. They are known to aggressively defend their nests and will attack those that disturb their nests.


Mating season: May.
Gestation: About 32 days for egg incubation.
Clutch size: Varies depending on availability of food; 3-5 eggs during times of limited food availability and 7-11 when food is plentiful.

Did You Know?

The snowy owl is also known as the Arctic owl or the Great White owl.

Only females incubate the eggs. The male provides the female and young with food. The young owls begin to leave the nest around 25-26 days after hatching. They are not able to fly well until at least 50 days of age. They continue to be fed by the parents for another 5 weeks after they leave the nest.