Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)


Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)


French: Harfang des neiges German: Schneeeule Spanish: Búho nival

Strix scandiaca


, 1758,

Lapland, north Finland


Previously placed in monotypic genus Nyctea, primarily on basis of skull characters; recent genetic study, however, indicated that it is part of the Bubo lineage#R. Monotypic.


Breeds from W & N Scandinavia E across N Russia and N Siberia, including Novaya Zemlya, to Chukotskiy Peninsula, Anadyrland, N Koryakland and Commander Is; then North America in W Aleutians (Attu and Buldir), Hall I (in Bering Sea) and from W Alaska E through N Canada (including Banks I, Prince Patrick I and N Ellesmere I) to N Labrador; also N & E Greenland#R. Has bred occasionally in Iceland and N Britain (Shetland Is). In winter some wander S into N USA (very occasionally as far S as California), to S Baltic region of Europe and, in Asia, to N China and SE Russia, rarely farther S.

Descriptive notes

Male 53–64 cm, 710–2500 g; female 59–66 cm, 780–2950 g; wingspan 125–166 cm. Large white owl with small eyes, rudimentary ear tufts normally not... read more


When disturbed, a repeated “kre” call, uttered in flight; female may produce a loud,... read more


Breeds on open Arctic tundra from near tree-line to edge of polar seas, with hummocks, rocks or... read more

Food and feeding

Lemmings (Lemmus, Dicrostonyx) and other voles (Microtus, Clethrionomys) major food items, at times... read more


Season May–Sept. Monogamous, often pairs for life; occasional polygyny and polyandry. Nest a shallow scrape on ground, usually in... read more


Mostly migratory and nomadic; some remain in breeding area all year if conditions allow. Movements... read more

Status and conservation

VULNERABLE. CITES II. Generally uncommon to scarce. Until recently, due to marked population fluctuations and unpredictability of species’ prey-dependent breeding... read more

Recommended citation

Holt, D.W., Berkley, R., Deppe, C., Enríquez Rocha, P., Petersen, J.L., Rangel Salazar, J.L., Segars, K.P., Wood, K.L., Garcia, E.F.J., Marks, J.S. & Sharpe, C.J. (2020). Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 30 March 2020).