Many birds come to the Arctic in the summer to live and breed but not all of them live here year round. Ptarmigan, snow bunting, and snowy owls are some of the Arctic birds that live here year round. Snowy owls live on the tundra.

They stay in the Arctic during the winter unless their food sources are scarce. If they leave the arctic in the winter they overwinter in northern Greenland, the Canadian islands, northern Eurasia, Wrangel Island as well as North America.
They are called snowy owls because their coloring is almost pure white when they are full grown. The feet of snowy owls are covered with feathers and have extra thick pads.

Snowy owls have incredible vision. They can see from high up in the sky and swoop down silently to capture their prey. Like all owls they have good night vision. They are nocturnal and diurnal hunt at night but in the Arctic it doesn’t get dark in the summer so the owls hunt in the daylight too. When the owl gets food it swallows it whole or tears it into large pieces to swallow.

The mother stays on the nest and the father brings her food and protects her. After the owlets are born both parents work to feed the owlets. In eight weeks the owlets are ready to leave the nest. This is important because the summers are so short in Arctic regions. If the owlets weren’t ready to take care of themselves they would not survive the cold winter.

Characteristics and Physical Features of the Snowy Owl

Height: Up to 27 in. - it is one of the biggest owls.
Wingspan: 45-60 in.
Color: In the summer, snowy owls are brownish with dark spots and stripes. In the winter, they are completely white.

Distinguishing Characteristics: All white color, ability to hunt silently, hunts during the day unlike most owls.

Breeding: 8-10 eggs, eggs are laid on the ground or on hummocks because there aren’t trees in the Arctic.

Range: Northern most Canada, Alaska, also circumpolar - prefers open spaces; tundra, grasslands, or frozen lakes.

Diet: Lemmings, hare, vole, and shrews. It also sometimes will eat hare or small birds. During the spring breeding season, owls will also eat eggs of waterfowl like swans.

Why are snowy owls white?

The feathers of the snowy owl have no pigment. This leaves more space for air which helps to keep the owl warmer because air is such a good insulator and it also makes the owl white.
Can you find a snowy owl in Oregon?

When food supplies become scarce in Arctic regions around the world the snowy owls that live in those regions migrate to other area to find more food. In the areas of Canada and Alaska this would mean that they would migrate to the northern states which would include Oregon.
Why are the snowy owl’s feet furry?

The Arctic regions are very cold. Sometimes the temperatures can reach -155ºF in the winter. Even the average would be well below 0ºF. Having well insulated feet is important in the region where they live because it is so cold and also because there are not many trees so the owls have to nest and live on the ground a lot.
How can an owl find its food in the dark?

Owls have keen hearing. The ears of an owl are positioned in different locations on either side of its head. The sound of its prey reaches the ears at two different times. The different times help him pinpoint the exact distance away from the lemming or other prey.
Can an owl digest all of the animal it eats?

It is able to digest its prey whole because it has strong acid in its stomach. Hair, bones and feathers are things that it can’t digest so after the food is digested the owl spits the undigested food back out as a “pellet”.
What’s a snowy owl’s favorite food?

Owls live mostly off lemmings. If there are a lot of lemmings the owl population increases. But if the lemming population is down during the winter the owls leave the Arctic are in search of food. Some people think that the owls die if there is only a little food but really a lot of them fly south searching for food. They come back when the food becomes more abundant.
Why do owls like airports?

When snowy owls fly south looking for more food they will often land at airports. We think that they do this because the wide-open space of the airports reminds them of the tundra.
What makes an owl able to fly silently?

They way that an owls feather fit together make them able to fly without making any sound. The front edge of the owls wing feathers breaks up the air as it goes over it. This breaks up the sound level so that the flapping of the wings is almost silent. It does this because the leading edge of the wing is frayed and can break up the air.
How much does an snowy owl eat every day?

Owls help control the rodents population. They are able to eat about a dozen rodents each day. If they have owlets they catch even more to feed them.