Snowy Owl

Scientific Name: Nyctea scandiaca

Snowy owl in flight | Steve Greer


Snowy owls originate in the Arctic and most spend their lives there. However, sometimes they may migrate down to the great lakes region and mid-western states in the winter. This is occurring more frequently in recent years due to climate change and habitat loss. Unlike other owls, snowy owls depend on open grasslands, nest on the ground, and hunt for small mammals, fish or waterfowl during the day.

Refuges where the Snowy Owl can be found:

Snowy owl about to take flight | Dennis Connell
Snowy owl about to take flight | Dennis Connell



Snowy owls are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, however, Alaska law allows Alaska residents to shoot unlimited numbers of owls if they are used for food or clothing.


As their name suggests, snowy owls have beautiful white plumage. Male snowy owls are almost completely white while females are darker with spots. In the Arctic, their white coloring helps disguise them from predators and enables them to sneak up on their prey. Though they are normally found in the Arctic the snowy owl is extremely dependent on it’s main food source, the lemming, and will also travel to where lemming populations are greatest. For that reason and due to climate change these magnificent owls can sometimes be spotted in the upper mid west and Canada.

What the Refuge Association is doing:

Help us protect the Arctic coastal plain in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge where the polar bear and many other species live. In 2015, the Refuge Association and National Wildlife Federation launched a new partnership aimed at educating and mobilizing the millions of Americans who care passionately about their nearby national wildlife refuges in the decades-old struggle to permanently protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Learn more about this initiative and read our report The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: A Crown Jewel in Need of Protection.

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