What is it?
The snowy owl is very large for an owl, and as is usual for birds of prey, females are still bigger than males. Male snowy owls are 52.5cm to 64cm tall, for wingspans of 116cm to 166cm, and they can weigh 1.3kg to 2.5kg. They are much whiter than females and can be entirely white, like the male presented here. Female snowy owls are 54cm to 71cm tall, for wingspans of 146cm to 183cm, and they can weigh 1.3kg to 3kg. They are white with speckled black patterns on the wings and body. They can be confused with juveniles, which are heavily speckled with dark patterns before they get lighter and lighter as they age.
Where is it?
The snowy owl has the northernmost distribution of any owl species. It is migratory across its range, breeding in the High Arctic of Eurasia and North America, including Greenland. It migrates to lower Arctic or subarctic regions in winter. In the East Atlantic Arctic, it breeds in northern and eastern Greenland, and northwestern and northern Norway. It is a annual but rare visitor to Iceland, where some pairs are believed to attempt breeding. It is also an annual visitor to Svalbard, western Greenland, and more rarely to the Faroe Islands.
- The snowy owl has recently experienced population decline among most of its range, especially in the U.S, where is is estimated to have declined by 64% between 1970 and 2014. The population has also declined in Fennsoscandia during that time. This lead to its new status as a vulnerable in 2017.
- The most well known fictional snowy owl is Hedwig from the Harry Potter book series. Hedwig is a female, but she was played by male owls in the movies, which may be because they were smaller and easier to handle for child actors.
- BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Bubo scandiacus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 02/12/2021
- Eckert, A. W. (1987). The Owls of North America, North of Mexico: All the Species and Subspecies Illustrated in Color and Fully Described. Gramercy.