Snowy Owl

Bubo scandiacus

NH Conservation Status: Not listed

State Rank Status: No data for NH. Population trend is unknown.

Distribution: Rare and irregular winter visitor throughout NH, especially on seacoast. One record exists from the Isles of Shoals during the summer of 2012 where it was preying on the threatened and endangered tern colony and ultimately was live-trapped and relocated north of the White Mountains. Snowy owls are more numerous in some years, such as the winter of 2013-2014, than others. This may be related to the availability of food in their breeding habitats. If lemmings (their primary food source) are plentiful snowy owls may lay more eggs thus producing more offspring.

Description: Up to 28” long and up to 57” wingspan. Body color is white with dark bars and spots. Females and young have more markings; males have markings when they are young but tend to lose them and become whiter as they age.

Voice: Both sexes make hoots, whistles, and hiss. Males are more likely to make a series of 2 – 6 low hoots that can be heard up to 7 miles away by other snowy owls on the tundra.

Commonly Confused Species: Barn owls are also white underneath but are brownish on top and have a distinctive heart shaped face.

Habitat: Open beaches, marshes, fields, airports & islands along the coast.

Nesting: On the tundra, females build their nests on the ground and may reuse the same nest for multiple years. A full clutch consists of 3-11 eggs and incubation lasts for up to 32 days. Within hours of hatching young have white down and within 5 days their eyes open. Chicks leave the nest around 3 weeks of age.

Diet: During the breeding season on the Tundra their diet consists primarily (sometimes entirely) on lemmings. They also prey on waterfowl, rodents, rabbits and are such agile fliers are able to catch small birds in flight.