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A Talk on the Wild Side.

8 Fascinating Facts About Snowy Owls

It's that time of year again, when birders and wildlife enthusiasts hope to catch a magical glimpse of a snowy owl. Historically the birds travel southward (well outside their normal range) every four years or so. This is called an irruption. But, for many reasons, not all understood, snowies have been "irrupting" more often, and some predict another banner year for Southern sightings. We figured people might start talking about snowies as sightings increase, and wanted to equip you with some interesting facts to share. 

  1. Bristles on their beaks help them sense nearby objects. The beak (nearly covered by facial feathers) is hooked and used for gripping prey and tearing flesh.

    Snowy Owl BeakThis photo, “Snowy Owl Detail 2” is copyright (c) 2015 Mark Kent and made available under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

  2. Needing insulation from Arctic temperatures, snowy owls have a lot of feathers. This makes them one of the heaviest owl species in North America.

    Snowy Owl FeathersThis photo, “Do I need a haircut” is copyright (c) 2015 Mike Norkum and made available under a CC BY-ND 2.0 license.

  3. Their feet are covered with feathers, like fluffy slippers. This provides ample insulation for the cold Arctic climate.

    Snowy Owl FeetThis photo, “Arctic Owl in Fuzzy Slippers” is copyright (c) 2007 Danny Barron and made available under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

  4. They swallow small prey whole. Snowy owls will eat a variety of food including lemmings, Arctic hares, mice, ducks and seabirds.

    Snowy Owl With Prey Photo by Rick Bohn

  5. Females remain with the young, males bring the food and then females feed it to the owlets.

    Snowy Owl Female and OwletThis photo, “Snowy Owl” is copyright (c) 2006 Tony Hisgett and made available under a CC BY 2.0 license.

  6. Their wingspan is 4-5 feet on average. These powerful wings help them silently sneak up on or accelerate after prey.

    Snowy Owl FlightThis photo, “3” is copyright (c) 2010 Pat Gaines and made available under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license.

  7. Male snowy owls are almost completely white, while females are white with dark bars on her otherwise white plumage.

    Male Snowy OwlPhoto courtesy of Alaska Peninsula/Becharof National Wildlife Refuges.

  8. The Arctic summer forces snowy owls to hunt by daylight. Unlike most owls that are nocturnal, snowy owls are diurnal.

    Snowy Owl in FlightThis photo, “Forecast...Snowy” is copyright (c) 2010 Pat Gaines and made available under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license.

What to do if you see a snowy owl:

  • Keep a safe distance to observe quietly.
  • Do not play bird calls from your phone or other device.
  • Don't feed the owls
  • Avoid flashes when taking photos.
  • Keep noises to a minimum. 
  • If you find an injured owl: contact your state wildlife agency or local rehabilitator.
  • If you find a dead owl: contact your state wildlife agency.

Snowy owls on refuges across the country:

Arctic National Wildlife Refgue in Alaska

Snowy Owl at Edwin B. Forsythe NWR

Snowy owl at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, USFWS.

Snowy Owl at Siletz Bay NWR

Snowy owl at Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon by Roy W. Lowe, USFWS.

Snowy Owl at Cypress Creek NWR

Snowy owl at Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Illinois by John Schwegman.

Snowy Owl at Hamden Slough NWRSnowy owl at Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota by Lee Kensinger.

Snowy Owl at Benton Lake NWR

Snowy owl at Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Montana, USFWS.

I love the puctures and interesting statistics that you give on various birds or any wild life. It is very interesting and gives the people an understanding and knowledge to the people what to do and not to do. So we can enjoy these beautiful owls and other posts w/o harming or interfering in their lives!
I thank you for such interesting and beautiful wild life ??
# Posted By Beth Sterling | 11/23/15 11:55 AM

Thanks very much for educating us on the Snowy Owl. As a child, I learned of my dad's fascination with owls - the Snowy Owl was his favourite. We had books, sketches and ceramic, leather and metal owls throughout our den. Thanks for sharing.
# Posted By Stephanie | 11/24/15 10:10 AM

I would love to spot one of these birds. They are beautiful and majestic. Thank you for giving us some facts!
# Posted By Kat Lentz | 11/24/15 4:55 PM

I will never forget coming upon a snowy owl in my car at midnight in the middle of a road on a carcass of something in the mountainous North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I see they are listed as not living that far south, but it was a pure white, huge snowy owl. Awesome animal. Mystical. Will never forget it and it was 41 years ago!
# Posted By Jerry OBrien | 12/5/15 7:51 PM

I was driving through a valley late one night upcountry on Maui and a white owl ('Pueo') swooped down and flew through the dark valley w/ the full moon light shimmering on its large majestic wings. It was special.
# Posted By mu | 12/7/15 10:00 PM

Do these beautiful owls get as far south as Alabama?? I am hoping they do;-)
# Posted By Carolyn Brownell | 1/4/16 8:44 AM

Both my son and I saw a very large bird not seen before by either of us. This posting leads us to believe, perhaps, that it was a snowy owl. It's image flying above appeared atypical if what we would expect of an owl, as your photos showed. In the Willamette Natnl Forest/Oakridge area.
# Posted By Rusty O'Regan | 1/30/16 3:05 PM

If u would like see snowy owl. Just drive to Fort Simpson N.T Canada. There tons of them.
# Posted By Trudy | 12/5/16 3:10 AM

thx i am doing school project for snowy owls and making it into a published book thx for the info
# Posted By Heyim_Awesome | 12/14/16 12:17 PM

A snowy owl is my favorite animal. Helped a lot during a school project. Thank you.
# Posted By Owlfan31 | 4/27/17 1:13 PM

thanks for this information i am doing a school project and i have to finish this project by today
# Posted By Nathalie V | 5/15/17 4:53 PM

THANK YOU SO MUCH PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
# Posted By Owlfan31 | 5/24/17 1:39 PM

thank you for all of this information. I am doing a school project and i am doing it with my friends
# Posted By | 10/7/17 4:32 PM

Thank you so much for this article. Is there a place we can report sitings?
# Posted By | 1/16/18 9:57 PM

I'm doing a school project too and this helped a lot. And I love owls!
# Posted By 12345 | 1/22/18 11:29 AM

You can enter snowy owls sitings here: http://ebird.org/ebird/map/snoowl1
# Posted By Fish and Wildlife Service | 1/24/18 9:44 AM

About 7 yrs ago i had been traveling a route to work consistently, about the same time of day, when i noticed something unusual. As i was driving my husbands old 88 Ford 150 around 45 mph along a thick forested area, a shadow spanning the width of the hood of the truck and actually shadowing the road, came from behind me. It was what appeared to be an enormous white snowy owl. I actually dropped down 10 to 15 mph to look at this magnificent bird of prey, of whom i think thought his prey was traveling with me. You see there was a sharp, unique decibaled sound that came from some area of that barreling gray truck clammering down the road , that i believe that snowy owl studied for some days everyday i went to work. I am impressly frightened at the fact that this quiet animal anticipated his lunch was traveling within the confounds of this old truck. I regret i did not video tape this because i dont think i will see one that size in this area of N.C. Wow what a memory in nature.
# Posted By Kristy | 2/4/18 7:01 AM

my sister and others are taking photos of a Snowy Owl that's been hanging out for couple of weeks in Odessa, TX I hope she sends photos with info.
# Posted By | 2/5/18 1:09 PM

right now i am super into snowy owls im doing a report on them and ive been soopset with them
# Posted By | 2/27/18 2:50 PM

Thank you so much for the good information!! I'm doing a school report on this animal.
# Posted By | 3/19/18 8:51 PM

cool thx im writing a book
# Posted By | 10/5/18 8:52 AM

Thank you this helped me a lot
# Posted By | 10/19/18 3:21 PM

Than for the info I’m doing a project for research
# Posted By | 10/22/18 6:24 PM

These owls and facts are amazing
# Posted By Savannah | 10/31/18 9:21 AM

this is so cool like a bum
# Posted By bum face | 11/10/18 7:25 AM

I love snowy owls and these remind me of Hedwig Harry potters pet snowy owl. #love nature.
# Posted By Voldemort | 11/20/18 6:58 PM

Hello folks... I saw mention a snowy owl in Maui ? Also sightings is spelled this way .. not sitings.. please folks , let us raise the bar and use correct English with proper spelling. Especially from the US Fish and Wildlife service..tsk..tsk.!!
# Posted By Linedog | 1/26/19 7:04 PM

Fact #9 – there is a special emoji for Owl ?? (https://emojis.wiki/owl/)
# Posted By Dominic | 3/3/19 6:47 AM

I love owls.
# Posted By Lily | 4/26/19 12:41 PM

I love how you tell the truth about owls. I love owls.
# Posted By Lily | 4/26/19 12:43 PM

I used to watch them going after Nutra babies inside a U shaped building with a well-kept lawn in between. It would just cruz over the cars in the parking even turning it's head to look at me. I first noticed it far off and thought it was a seagull. Pure white with what looked like a seven foot wingspan. It's got to be the largest bird like that I ever saw. Thought it to be a ohmen at the time.
# Posted By Al Ponce | 5/18/19 11:39 PM

I would love to spot one of these birds. They are beautiful and majestic. Thank you for giving us some facts!
# Posted By Kat Lentz | 5/20/19 4:57 PM

I would love to spot one of these birds. They are beautiful and majestic. Thank you for giving us some facts!
# Posted By Kat Lentz | 5/20/19 4:57 PM
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