Snowy Owl
Bubo scandiacas

Photo of a Snowy Owl © Jack Whitman


Alaska’s heaviest owl, the Snowy Owl, is 23” long and the only species in which the sexes can be easily distinguished. Females and young owls are heavily barred, while the adult male is almost completely white. This owl has a round head (without eartufts) and yellow eyes. It has long wings.

Hunting Techniques and Prey:

Snowy Owls rely on both sight and hearing to locate prey, and hunt both day and night. Lemmings and voles are their primary foods, although a variety of larger prey, such as ducks, are occasionally taken. In years when prey is scarce, many Snowy Owls migrate south out of their normal range (this is called an eruption). They have been known to show up in the winter in the Lower 48 states.


Snowy Owls nest and hunt on the open tundra. They lay their eggs in a bare scrape on the ground, usually on an elevated mound. Young and eggs are particularly susceptible to predation, primarily by arctic fox.


Snowy Owl Call (MP3 file 136 kB)
This owl is silent except on its breeding grounds where the male gives a low, hollow booming.

Snowy Owl range map

Owlmanac Cover This information is from The Alaska Owlmanac: A guide to the identification, habits, and habitat of ten owl species found in Alaska.