(Bubo scandiacus)

FUN FACT

A single Snowy Owl can eat more than 1,600 lemmings every year.

 

The Snowy Owl is well-suited for life north of the Arctic Circle.  Adult male Snowy Owls are almost completely white (females tend to retain some brown scalloping on their wings), with thick, insulating plumage and well-feathered feet.  They are also among the largest of owls, weight 4.5 pounds on average and sporting a nearly 60 inch wingspan.

Although typically found in the northern circumpolar region, Snowy Owls have been seen as far south as Texas and southern Russia.  Occasional long-distance movements, called irruptions, happen about every four years due to population flunctuations in the Snowy Owl's main prey, lemmings.  In April 2009, a young female Snowy Owl spent several days in Pittsburgh, visiting both the Point and the National Aviary before returning to her breeding grounds somewhere in the Arctic tundra; in winter 2013, the National Aviary's ornithologist banded a Snowy Owl captured at Pittsburgh International Airport, so that biologists there could relocate it to a safer place. 

Distribution

Northern circumpolar regions.

Habitat

Arctic tundra.

Diet

Almost exclusively lemmings, but also other small rodents and birds.

Breeding

Snowy Owls breed in May. Depending on the availability of prey, a female will lay between three and 11 eggs in a ground scrape, usually atop a hillock or rock. Owlets hatch five weeks after laying, and both parents cooperate in caring for the young.

Status

Not Under Threat (Least Concern)

At the Aviary

Two Snowy Owls can be seen in Condor Court.