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Merlin Bird ID

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    Snowy Owl

    Silhouette OwlsOwls

    Snowy Owl

    Bubo scandiacus
    • ORDER: Strigiformes
    • FAMILY: Strigidae
    Basic Description

    The regal Snowy Owl is one of the few birds that can get even non-birders to come out for a look. This largest (by weight) North American owl shows up irregularly in winter to hunt in windswept fields or dunes, a pale shape with catlike yellow eyes. They spend summers far north of the Arctic Circle hunting lemmings, ptarmigan, and other prey in 24-hour daylight. In years of lemming population booms they can raise double or triple the usual number of young.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for Snowy OwlRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    Find This Bird

    Unless you visit the high arctic, you’ll mainly be looking for Snowy Owls during winter in wide-open areas such as fields and shorelines. Scan snowy flat areas and be on the lookout for any irregularities in the snow. A lump or dirty patch could be a Snowy Owl facing away from you. Snowy Owls like to perch in conspicuous areas, so be sure to check high points like hay bales, fenceposts, telephone poles, buildings, or grain elevators. Also look for agitated birds—other raptors or gulls may swoop at a Snowy Owl sitting on a beach.

    Other Names
    • Búho Nival (Spanish)
    • Harfang des neiges (French)
    • Cool Facts