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Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl


Snowy Owl Baby
Snowy Owl Baby

Snowy Owl Habits

The snowy owl is the largest bird in the Arctic region. The male is almost entirely white, with a few dark markings among his feathers. The female has more dark feathers than the male, concentrated into barred markings on her wings, breast, and underside. She has longer claws and can be as much as one fifth larger and one third heavier than the male. This marked difference in appearance between the sexes is unique among owls.

Snowy Owl Communication

Owls communicate with sounds and body movements, such as hooting, hissing, calling, fluffing feathers, posture, and bill snapping. They have extraordinarily good eyesight in low light conditions and can hear very well. Their ears are not located exactly opposite each other on the head of these owls. This allows Owls to pinpoint the location of sounds, such as the sound of a mouse running.

Snowy Owl Breeding

The male snowy owl has a large territory, and, when mating, his cries can be heard six miles away in the thin Artic air. In protecting his territory, he will sometimes chase and fight with another male in midair. A female, too, will defend territory or a potential mate against others of her own sex.
The female makes a nest in a hollow in the ground. Like other species of owl, the female snowy owl will stagger her egg-laying. This gives the older, stronger chicks the advantage in periods when food is in short supply. They eat most of the food their parents bring to the nest and they may even kill and eat their younger, weaker nest mates.
The owlets hatch after a 30 day incubation period, using a temporary "egg tooth" to crack through the shell. They are covered with thin, white down which is soon replaces by a coat of sooty black down. At 43-50 days, they can fly. After 60 days, they are able to hunt for themselves.

Snowy Owl Food & Feeding

In the Arctic, the snowy owl feeds mainly on lemmings and an occasional mouse. Elsewhere, it will eat rabbits, hares, and birds. Unlike most owls, the snowy owl rarely hunts at night. It seeks its prey in the twilight of early morning and evening. It seizes its prey with its sharp claws, called talons.
The long Arctic winter brings many hours of darkness and numbing cold, but the snowy owl's thick feathers keep it well insulated and warm. Food is scarce during the harsh winter months in the tundra, and the snowy owl is capable of fasting for up to 40 days at a time. It survives on the thick deposits of fat under its skin that is has acquired during the summer and further conserves its energy by moving as little as possible.

Snowy Owl Key Facts

              Height: Length: 21-26 inches. Female is larger. Wingspan: 60-65 inches
              Weight: 3.5-6.5 pounds
             Sexual maturity: 2 years
             Mating: May-Sept
             Gestation: Incubation: 30-33 days. Fledging period: 43-50 days
             Number of young: Number of broods: 1. Eggs: 3-10, smooth, glossy, white
            Habit: Solitary and diurnal
            Diet: Lemmings, small mammals, ducks, other birds
            Lifespan: Up to 15 years in the wild, 28 years in captivity



  • Archaeologists have found snowy owl bones in kitchen waste thrown out by Neo-lithic people. Today Eskimos sometimes eat owl meat.
  • If a predator, such as a wolf or an arctic fox, nears the nest, the owls often attack the intruder fearlessly, swooping down on it and striking it with their talons.
  • Unlike most owls, which are nocturnal, snowy owls are diurnal—they hunt and are active both day and night.
  • Young owls, especially males, get whiter as they get older.
  • The snowy owl is a patient hunter that perches and waits to identify its prey before soaring off in pursuit.

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