Snowy Owl

Bubo scandiacus (Linnaeus, 1758) SO SNOOW 7490
Family: Strigiformes > Strigidae

Snowy Owl, Graham Catley

A rare (less than annual) visitor from its Arctic breeding grounds, the Snowy Owl is probably best known to many as 'Hedwig' from the Harry Potter films.

A celebrated pair bred for eight years on the Shetland island of Fetlar until 1976, when the male failed to return; one or two females, though, summered every year until 1993.

Select a topic for more facts and statistics about the Snowy Owl

  • Breeding
  • Winter


Snowy Owl identification is usually straightforward.

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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.


We have no population estimates for this scarce species.


A former rare breeder, Snowy Owls have not attempted to breed in Britain & Ireland since 2001. During the 2008–11 breeding seasons a non-breeding adult female was reported from various locations on the west coast of Ireland. In Britain non-breeding birds were reported from various sites, including a male that in the Outer Hebrides, and a female summered in the Channel Islands in 2009

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK


There are sporadic records of Snowy Owls throughout the year, mostly in northern and montane areas.

Weekly occurence of Snowy Owl from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Snowy Owl ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland
Encountered in: Winter (Nov-Feb); Spring (Mar-Apr); Summer (May-Jul); Autumn (Aug-Oct)


Lifecycle and body size information about Snowy Owl, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.


Sample sizes are too small to report Productivity and Nesting statistics for this species.


Sample sizes are too small to report Biometrics for this species.

Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Comhachag-gheal
Welsh: Tylluan yr Eira
Catalan: duc blanc
Czech: sovice snežní
Danish: Sneugle
Dutch: Sneeuwuil
Estonian: lumekakk
Finnish: tunturipöllö
French: Harfang des neiges
German: Schneeeule
Hungarian: hóbagoly
Icelandic: Snæugla
Irish: Ulchabhán Sneachtúil
Italian: Gufo delle nevi
Latvian: balta puce
Lithuanian: baltoji peleda
Norwegian: Snøugle
Polish: puchacz sniezny
Portuguese: coruja-das-neves
Slovak: belana tundrová
Slovenian: snežna sova
Spanish: Búho nival
Swedish: fjälluggla

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