The Snowy Owl, Nyctea scandiaca, of the family Strigidae, is a large (length: 24 inches, wingspan:
4 feet 7 inches) white owl with rounded head and yellow eyes. Dark bars and spots are heavier on females, heaviest on young birds. Old males may be pure white. The Snowy's
habitat is open country: tundra, dunes, marshes and fields, plains. Snowy Owls show little fear of human activities, and so
it is not uncommon to see one perched on the roof of a building or on a highway sign beside an airport.
The owls are usually silent in winter, but on their breeding grounds they hoot, whistle, rattle and bark.
The nest, found on the ground, is lined with feathers, mosses and lichens. There the female lays 5-8 white
In order to withstand the harsh northern winters, Snowies are densely covered with feathers all the way
down to their toes.
The prey is chiefly lemmings (but Snowies also take hares, ptarmigan, shorebirds, small ducks, and other
birds, as well as some fish). They hunt by day during the Arctic summer, as well as at night.
The Snowy retreats from the northernmost part of its range in winter. In years when the lemming population
plummets, Snowies may wander in winter as far south as northern Alabama, Oklahoma and central California. These irruptives,
usually heavily barred younger birds, are often highly visible, perched conspicuously on the ground or on low stumps, fence
posts and buildings. Snowies breed in northern Alaska and in northernmost Canada. They winter south throughout Canada into
the northern United States, irregularly farther. They are also found in Eurasia.