14 Snowy Owl Fun Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

by Stacy Tornio

Are you ready for snowy owl fun facts to learn more about this magnificent bird? This is one of the most popular owls in North America, but not a lot of people get the chance to see it. You can still admire it, though. And at least learn more about it to hopefully increase your chances of seeing it one day.

Every year, these birds migrate to my area of Wisconsin, and so I’ve dug up a lot of snowy owl fun facts over the years. Here are some of my favorites.

1. Snowy owls are good enough for Harry Potter.

Yes, the famous Hedwig in Harry Potter is a snowy owl. It was a gift from Hagrid for Harry’s 11th birthday.

2. Snowies are the only white owl species.

Yes, the only white owl is the snowy owl. The barn owl should get an honorable mention because it has a white face and plumage. But the only true white owl is the snowy.

3. Here’s a snowy owl fun fact—females are bigger.

With many birds, the male is bigger than the female. But the snowy owl is an exception. Males are a couple inches smaller and one to two pounds smaller than females.

4. They have a huge wingspan.

The wingspan of snowy owls are really impressive. They can reach between five and six feet in flight!

5. You won’t find snowy owls in the forest.

Most people associate all owls with forested areas. This is not the case for snowies. They like open fields so they can a good view for hunting small animals. It’s common to find snowy owls on telephone poles, hay bales, and other perches near an open area. Over the years, there have been a lot of reports of snowy owls at airports. Here where I live in Milwaukee, these owls often show up near Lake Michigan in the winter.

6. Most people don’t see snowy owls because they live so far north.

These beautiful white owls will spend most of their time in the far northern areas of North America. Then as winter comes along and they need more to eat, they’ll head south. But remember south usually means southern parts of Canada and the northern United States, so not a lot of people get the chance to see this beautiful owl in person. Now some years they can migrate farther south, but it’s never a guarantee.

7. Snowy owls eat small mammals.

With snowy owls migrating south to eat, you might wonder what they eat. They will eat just about any small mammal, including lemmings, hares, and even small geese. They will also eat other, smaller birds. Since a lot of these animals hibernate and take cover during winter, they have to go wherever they can find food.

8. Here’s another snowy owl fun fact—look for them during the day.

It can be challenging to see a snowy out in the wild. Think about a plastic bag stuck on the top of a fencepost, and this is about what a snowy owl would look like! Unlike a lot of owls that are nocturnal, they are actually diurnal. They are usually very still during the day and can be really far away, so be patient and use a good pair of binoculars. Scan the area slowly, and look for any shapes from the landscape that seem out of the ordinary.

9. Snowy owl females can have a lot of young!

They might lay as many 11 eggs at once. It depends a lot on how much food the female is eating. If food is scarce, there might only be a few. But if they have a lot in a season, they could have as many as 11! This can be a lot of mouths to feed. Then the babies will leave about 30 days after they hatch.

10. Snowy babies have dark feathers.

They don’t hatch with white feathers. In fact, they have a mix of dark feathers that look like ash or soot. They eventually molt to the adult colors.

11. Males can have more white than females.

It’s hard to tell the difference between male and female snowy owls. However, male owls do tend to be more white overall while females can look really spotted with all their black markings. Males also get whiter as they age. The photo here shows a mature white snowy.

12. They are heavy owls.

Actually, they are the heaviest owl in North America! Even though the great gray owl and the great horned owl are bigger, the snowy weighs the most. They weigh around four pounds. This is because they need some serious insulation and lots of feathers to stay warm.

13. Snowy owls really have feathers everywhere.

In fact, they go all the way down on their feet, too. Yes, the feet of white owls are completely covered in feathers. It almost looks like they are wearing slippers!

14. The snowy owl numbers are declining.

At one point, there were as many as 300,000 snowy owls. Now, scientists are afraid there might only be around 30,000. It’s important we all do our parts to protect habitat for animals like snowy owls.

With these snowy owl fun facts, do you feel like you have a better understanding of these unique birds? If you really want to see a snowy owl for yourself, then your best bet is to travel to an area where they are seen regularly. (Canada would love to have you!) If you do have snowy owls in your area, there’s this awesome interactive map where you can put in your location to find local sightings. It’s so cool. Check it out. 

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