Bird Families

White or snowy owl


The predator living in the polar latitudes is one of the largest representatives of the tundra. The snowy owl belongs to the owl family. Due to the white color of the plumage, the bird received another name - White Owl.


The body length of the snowy owl can reach up to 65 centimeters, and the bird weighs no more than three kilograms. Males are smaller than females. The plumage of the bird is soft and fluffy, thanks to him it can live in the local climate of the northern latitudes. The round head of an owl with bright yellow eyes is noteworthy. On the white plumage of the bird, brown longitudinal stripes may be located. As a rule, females show off these stripes. In males, they may be completely absent. The owl's beak and ears are hidden under feathers. Snowy owls are endowed with distinctive hearing and keen eyesight, which helps these individuals to hunt even in the pitch darkness of the polar night.

The voice of the polar owl


Lemmings are traditionally the main food for snowy owls. This rodent species is widespread in the range of polar owls. To satisfy hunger, the snowy owl needs to eat more than four lemmings per day. Apart from these rodents, birds love to hunt larger mammals. Their best prey are hares, fox cubs or ermines. Do not mind eating other birds, fish and even carrion.

The snowy owl does not hunt near its habitat, so as not to attract predators to it. Thanks to this, seagulls build their nests next to the bird, as they can feel safe there.


The breeding season of snowy owls is marked with the arrival of spring. It is in the spring that birds return from wintering, look for a suitable place and announce their choice with loud cries. If the female responded, then the male begins to arrange a whole show in front of her: he brings prey, shows his wings, makes demonstration take-offs and accompanies his chosen one all day.

The resulting couples stay together for an extended period. They participate in the upbringing process together.

The female begins to lay eggs in early May. As a rule, she is able to lay no more than eight eggs per day. The hatching process lasts up to one month, after which the cubs begin to hatch from the eggs. Not all owlets are born at the same time. Quite often, late toddlers do not survive. After the birth of all the cubs, the female, together with the male, flies out in search of food. At this time, little snowy owls huddle alone in their nests.

Owlets become capable after a month and a half of life.

Snowy owl chick


Snowy owls are active during the day, but they go out to search for prey either early in the morning or late in the evening. Thanks to its abilities, the bird is an excellent hunter at any time of the day. With an insufficient amount of food, snowy owls fly closer to settlements.

They roam, as a rule, from September, and return from the beginning of October. Many birds remain in the field, provided there is sufficient food.

Some individuals can lead a lonely lifestyle without mating.

Enemies in the wild

Arctic foxes are the main enemies of polar owls in the tundra. In search of easy prey, Arctic foxes often steal little owls from their nests. In addition to polar foxes, white owls should be wary of foxes, which also do not mind eating their immature chicks.

When a person approaches their territory, snowy owls emit loud frightening cries. Sometimes, when danger comes, they hover over their potential enemy in order to assess further actions. When directly attacking the nest, the males engage in a fight with the destroyer, making loud sounds similar to the croaking of a crow.


The snowy owl can be found in the northern latitudes of both hemispheres. Snowy owls are widespread in the Arctic Ocean. In particular, they live on Wrangel Island, New Zealand, Greenland and Svalbard.

Snowy owls prefer to inhabit large open areas and small mountain hills. As a rule, they avoid wooded areas, sticking to the tundra and forest-tundra. This is due to the fact that in deep forests, it is much more difficult for owls to find their prey.

Owl behavior and nutrition

White owls love open spaces. They avoid tall vegetation, since prey cannot be seen in it while hunting. These feathered predators hunt from the ground, while they settle on a hill. Having found a rodent, the owl flaps its wings heavily, throws itself on the victim and grabs it with sharp claws.

The white owl is a lover of open areas.

White owls swallow small prey whole, and tear large ones into pieces and eat them. Feathered bones and hair regurgitate. Snowy owls eat at least 4 rodents every day. They hunt in the evening or morning hours. Polar owls eat not only rodents, but also hares, hedgehogs, ermines, partridges, ducks and fish. In addition, these feathered predators eat carrion.

Snowy owls never hunt near their nests to avoid attracting predators. Gulls use such prudence, they settle nearby with owl's nests, since they drive away predators even a kilometer from their offspring.

In those times when there is very little food, snowy owls leave their favorite polar tundra in September-October and fly to the south in the steppe and forest-tundra. If there is no prey there, then the birds fly even further south. Thus, they may find themselves on the southern border of Canada or in central Russia. If there are enough rodents, then the migration towards the equator stops.

Owls feed on small rodents.

In any case, in March-April, these birds go back to their native lands, since in May they lay eggs there and give life to a new generation. In good years, rich in food, polar owls do not leave the tundra even in cold weather. They hibernate near their nests.

Enemies of the Snowy Owl

Snowy owls have a sufficient number of enemies, but at the same time, these birds are not often attacked, defenseless chicks mostly suffer. Arctic foxes destroy nests, and they eat not only chicks, but also eggs. Skuas with powerful beaks and claws also pose a threat to their offspring. They easily destroy other people's broods.

In addition, a large number of small animals live in the tundra, which can harm the defenseless chicks of polar owls. An adult can also fall prey to a predator if it loses its vigilance. In the harsh conditions of the Arctic, death becomes the punishment for weakness and inattention.

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Description of the white owl

White owls prefer to live far from humans, so meeting this bird can be quite lucky - not everyone... The predatory nature and habits of the hunter make the snowy owl an amazing hunter who will not disappear under any circumstances. Keen eyes allow these predators to find food for themselves, even in the most inaccessible places.

Character and lifestyle

Snowy owls are common throughout the tundra. On cold winter days, they can be found in the steppe and in the forest-tundra for food. In the case of a small amount of food, the bird prefers to settle closer to settlements. Migration occurs from September to October In more southern areas, the owl can live in April or March.

Important! The predatory nature of the polar owl attracts some birds, who notice that the owl defends its territory and does not allow enemies there. They try to settle in its nesting area, in the hope that the owl will scare away predators from their nests too.

The snowy owl prefers to hunt while sitting on a small hill. Even on a gloomy day, she can easily grab her favorite prey on the fly, having aimed well before that. In a calm state and good disposition, the predator makes abrupt and calm sounds. At moments of excitement, the voice rises and becomes like a jerky trill. If the owl stops talking, then its breeding season is over.

How long do white owls live

Depending on the habitat, the lifespan of the snowy owl can vary. In the wild, they can live up to 9 years, and in captivity, their life expectancy can be up to 28 years.

Habitat, habitats

Scientists classify the polar owl's habitat as circumpolar, which means its ability to adapt to life in the Arctic zones of both hemispheres. The bird settles in the tundra places of such continents as Eurasia and North America. It can also be found on the Arctic islands of Greenland, Novaya Zemlya, Wrangel, Bering and some others.

But birds prefer wintering in the more southern poles. During the flight, they even reach the zone of deciduous forests. For wintering, he chooses open areas where there are no settlements. The time for the flight and settling on the ground takes from the last days of September to mid-October. The return flight takes place at the end of March, with owls returning to the Arctic to reproduce and breed.

It is interesting! In rare cases, snowy owls prefer to winter in the places where they nest. As a rule, areas with a thin layer of snow or ice become places of their overnight stay.

Snowy owl diet

The main prey of the snowy owl is lemmings (small rodents up to 80 g in weight, belonging to the hamster family). The bird also hunts pikas, hares, hedgehogs, ermines and other arctic birds, as well as fox cubs. The diet also includes seafood, bird eggs and carrion. In order to get enough, the owl needs to catch at least 4 rodents per day. It turns out that in a year she will need about one and a half thousand victims.

Snowy owls hunt at a considerable distance from their nests, but at the same time they scare away predators from attacking it. The bird is able to guard its nest within a radius of one kilometer. To successfully catch a victim, an owl needs a fairly open space without a strong accumulation of tall plants. In such conditions, the victim is better seen and there are no obstacles to catching it.

The hunting mechanism is as follows:

  • an owl sits on a small hill or hovers above the ground, looking for prey,
  • when a successful tracking object appears, the bird thinks over the course of the attack, hovering over the victim for several seconds,
  • having chosen the right moment, it dives for prey, fighting it on the spot with its powerful claws or beak.

Small victims are swallowed by owls whole, and large ones are torn into small pieces with the help of a beak. At the same time, the wool, claws and bones of the eaten prey of the owl burp.

Natural enemies

The foxes are the enemies of snowy owls, and they steal owl chicks right from their nest. It should be noted that the owls themselves are not averse to feasting on small foxes. Also, foxes and skuas inhabiting the tundra are often chosen as prey for immature owl chicks. The snowy owl also considers man to be its enemy. Males make loud screams when people approach their territory.

The tactics of scaring away uninvited guests may vary depending on the situation. Sometimes the predator rises high into the sky, soars there, assessing the actions of the enemy. When the object approaches the nest, the male pounces on it, making at the same time sounds similar to the croaking of a crow, and threateningly clicks its beak. In some cases, the male remains on the ground and fluffs menacingly in front of the approaching danger. In short jumps, he approaches the enemy and makes intimidating sounds.

Population and status of the species

Snowy owls are represented by a small population... About 50 couples can be spread over approximately 100 square kilometers. Their main habitat is Wrangel Island. Birds of this species play a huge role in maintaining the ecological system of the Arctic and, in general, for the natural environment of the tundra.

It is interesting! The species is included in Appendix II of the CITES Convention.

Owls are useful in that they support a stable growth of northern rodents. In addition, they create excellent safe nesting conditions for other birds, protecting the area from common predators.

3 interesting facts about Sirius:

  • the loudest owlet in our house
  • lover to drink from the basin
  • can walk up to a person and yell at him

Year of birth: 2018


Russian name - White owl, snowy owl

Latin name - Bubo scandiacus

English name - Snowy owl

Squad - Owls

Family - Real owls

Initially, the species was separated into a separate genus Nyctea, but at the moment taxonomists include it in the genus Bubo (Eagle owls).

Conservation status

In general, it is not numerous, in some places it is a common species, included in Appendix II of the CITES Convention (International Convention on Trade in Wild Animals and Plants). There is no global threat of extinction.


Snowy owls have a circular distribution and are very characteristic of the Arctic and Subarctic of Eurasia and North America. They inhabit oceanic islands, coasts, mainland tundra and arctic deserts. These are partly sedentary, but mostly nomadic birds. Their migrations are irregular and depend on local conditions - snow cover, availability and abundance of food, etc.
Lifestyle and social organization
The snowy owl is predominantly diurnal, but still prefers to hunt in the early morning or late afternoon. During the polar summer, she can hunt at any time of the day.

In the nesting season, a pair of owls occupies an area of ​​1 to 6 km², depending on the abundance of food. When a predator appears, owls begin to attack it already at a distance of 1 km from the nest.

During their migrations, they do not gather in flocks, moving in small groups, pairs, or singly.

Diet and Feeding Behavior

Snowy owls feed mainly on mouse-like rodents - Norwegian, Ob, and hoofed lemmings, voles and ground squirrels. The number of lemmings determines the course of the main periodic phenomena in the life of snowy owls - reproduction, migrations, seasonal distribution, etc.

Owls also feed on birds, mainly young birds, during the feeding period, such as ptarmigan, sandpipers, gulls, ducklings, and small passerines. In non-nesting times, the food of snowy owls is more diverse: hares, pikas, small predatory (ermine), medium-sized birds (chickens, ducks), sometimes fish, frogs, crustaceans and beetles.

Snowy owls lie in wait for prey, sitting on a hill or flying low over the tundra land with a leisurely flight. Sometimes they hunt on the fly, while trembling in one place in the air, like a kestrel, they can grab birds from the surface of the water. The owl swallows small prey whole, large - first breaks into pieces.


The voice is a clear and sharp cry of "ki-ki-ki", as well as a sound like "crow-au", reminiscent of a croak. The mating cry of the male is low and dull, but far audible barking cries, repeated several times in a row: “hov…. Hov….”, In the female - a low and dull “huu…”. When disturbed near the nest, the male publishes abrupt and dull cries - "ххав" or "ххув" and laughs "ha-ha-ha", the female publishes a dull series of calls "heck-heck-heck" or a short croaking-hissing cry. The firing squads are whistling loudly and hoarsely.