• The snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus) is a large bird of prey with a remarkably large distribution. They can be found throughout high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, including Canada, Greenland, Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, and Japan. During the breeding season, Alaska is the only U.S. state far enough north to host these birds, but in the winter they can be found as far south as Oklahoma.

    Worldwide, the population of snowy owls is estimated to be around 200,000. Because snowy owls breed north of the Arctic Circle, they are at little risk of direct habitat destruction from humans; their preferred habitat is largely inhospitable for humans. Some native peoples hunt snowy owls for their meat, claws, and feathers, and occasional accidental deaths are reported due to human activity and infrastructure, but these probably have little impact on the overall population. However, snowy owls are dependent on cold weather climates and the small mammals, like lemmings, that inhabit them for food, especially during the breeding season. Changing climates and warming global temperatures are likely to restrict the habitat and food available for these majestic and widespread birds.

    1. Where and when can the snowy owl be found in the United States?

      The snowy owl can be found in Alaska year-round and as far south as Oklahoma in the winter.

    2. How large is the snowy owl population?

      Globally, there are approximately 200,000 individuals.

    3. If human activity has little direct impact, why is there still cause for concern about the snowy owl?

      Snowy owls are dependent on cold weather climates that are under threat by global climate change.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    bird of prey Noun

    carnivorous birds that feed mainly on meat. Also called a raptor.

    breeding season Noun

    time when animals mate, give birth and sometimes raise young.

    climate Noun

    all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.

    Encyclopedic Entry: climate
    distribution Noun

    the way something is spread out over an area.

    Encyclopedic Entry: distribution
    infrastructure Noun

    structures and facilities necessary for the functioning of a society, such as roads.

    inhospitable Adjective

    offering no shelter or favorable climate.

    latitude Noun

    distance north or south of the Equator, measured in degrees.

    Encyclopedic Entry: latitude
    mammal Noun

    animal with hair that gives birth to live offspring. Female mammals produce milk to feed their offspring.

    native Adjective

    indigenous, or from a specific geographic region.

    Northern Hemisphere Noun

    half of the Earth between the North Pole and the Equator.

    stable Adjective

    steady and reliable.