The snowy owl is a species of large owl. First classified
in the 18th century by Linnaeus, the "father of taxonomy,"
the snowy owl was originally believed to be the sole
member of its own taxonomic genus, nyctea. It has been
reclassified and now bears the scientific name Bubo
scandiacus, sharing its genus with a number of other
species of owl.
The snowy owl's range extends from the northernmost
Arctic tundra of the Northern Hemisphere throughout
Canada and northern mainland Eurasia. The snowy owl
breeds in the northernmost regions of its range, and
travel towards the south of their range in the winter.
Snowy owls have been spotted outside their typical range,
sometimes as far south as the south of the United States.
On average, the snowy owl measures between 20 and 28
inches in length and weighs between about three and
a half and six and a half pounds with a wingspan of
49 to 59 inches, making it one of the largest species
of owl. The snowy owl has a black beak and yellow eyes,
but is best known for its thick white feathers. Male
snowy owls have almost entirely white plumage, while
females typically have dark scalloping on their otherwise
Unlike most species of owl, the snowy owl hunts during
the day. It typically relies mostly on small rodents,
especially lemmings, as a food source, but may also
hunt birds or small mammals such as rabbits, squirrels,
and raccoons. The snowy owl is an opportunistic hunter
and therefore can have a fair amount of variety in its
diet, especially during the winter when food can be
The snowy owl generally hunts by simply waiting for
prey to emerge, then striking either in air, on the
ground, or above the surface of water. Like many species
of bird, the snowy owl swallows small prey whole. Its
stomach is capable of digesting whole prey and forming
elements such as bone that cannot be digested into small
pellets that the owl later regurgitates.
Though it faces few natural threats, the snowy owl
must often fend off predators such as arctic foxes,
gray wolves, and predatory birds that target young snowy
owls during the nesting season. While the adult snowy
owl is not prey to wolves, foxes, predatory birds, and
weasels, it competes with them for shared food sources.
The snowy owl does not face an apparent danger from
humans and is classified by the IUCN with a conservation
status of "least concern."
The snowy owl is valued by humans for its beauty and
as a symbol, being a much favored species among birdwatchers
and those who appreciate nature. Additionally, the snowy
owl is the official bird of Canada's province of Quebec.
About the Author
Jacob Maddox manages content for Wildlife Animals http://www.wildlife-animals.com
an educational wildlife and animal website.