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Snowy Owl Nyctea scandiaca


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Snowy Owl
credit: pe_ha45/CCSA

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Family: Strigidae, Owls view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE Has essentially pure white plumage with small black spots and bars; at close range, feathered feet, black bill, and yellow eyes can be seen. ADULT FEMALE AND 1ST-WINTER MALE Mainly white, but note more extensive blackish spots on upperparts and dark barring below. 1ST-WINTER FEMALE Heavily marked with dark barring on all parts, except head.

Dimensions Length: 24" (61 cm); Wngspn: 4' 7" (1.4 m)

Habitat Fairly common tundra-breeding species within its high Arctic range, although numbers vary considerably from year to year, influenced by abundance or available selection of prey. Outside breeding season, most birds move south, the extent to which they travel influenced by severity of winter weather and availability of prey.

Observation Tips Relatively easy to see if you visit its high Arctic breeding grounds in summer. In winter, most observations are by chance. Can turn up almost anywhere across Canada and northern U.S. in suitable habitatsóoften open grassland or coastal areas. In such situations, white plumage makes it easy to spot.

Range Alaska, Rocky Mountains, Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, California, New England, Plains, Southeast, Eastern Canada, Western Canada, Northwest

Voice Mostly silent, although territorial male sometimes utters series of deep hoots.

Discussion Huge and unmistakable species, which lacks "ear" tufts. Often active during the day, and obliged to be diurnal in Arctic breeding grounds by perpetual summer daylight. Even if resting or roosting, open nature of its favored habitats, and sheer size, make it relatively conspicuous. Feeds on lemmings and voles during summer months; diet in winter range is often more varied. Sexes are dissimilar.