Snowy owl (Bubo scandiaca)
The Zoo is home to two snowy owls, one male, Ningus, and one female, B.B. The female was hatched in 2011 and came to us in 2012 from
the Bramble Park Zoo in Watertown, South Dakota. Deemed non-releasable, she has
an amputated right wing tip injury of unknown origin.
The male, estimated to be born in 2010, came to us in 2013 from a state rehab facility in Montana.
Status in the wild
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List status: Least concern. They are protected, however, under the U.S. Migratory Bird Act and CITES Appendix II. Snowy owls are victims of collisions with vehicles, gunshot wounds, utility line and airplane collisions, electrocutions and entanglement with fishing lines.
Snowy owls are found circumpolar, most often in Arctic habitats where they breed. They can be found in coastal Alaska, Canada and Greenland.They can also be found in northern Scandinavia, Russia, southern Novaya Zemlya (a large island off the northern coast of Russia) and northern Siberia. During the winter season, some snowy owls migrate south into more temperate habitats. Snowy owls usually inhabit open tundra (sea level to 300 meters in elevation) during summer months. They also inhabit lowland grasslands (saltwater grass meadows and freshwater wet meadows), especially for hunting. During winter, snowy owls will move South and can be seen in marshes, fields, prairies, beaches and on dunes.
Lemmings, mice, rabbits, rodents, waterfowl, other birds and fish.
- Snowy owls are carnivores; they hunt by sitting on an elevated perch
that gives them good visibility; visual scanning of their hunting area is made possible
by their ability to rotate their head three quarters of the way around.
- Snowy owls are generally monogamous for one breeding season at a time, although cases of polygamy for a few seasons have been seen when prey is extremely abundant.
- The niche of a snowy owl in their ecosystem is controlling lemming populations. A snowy owl may consume three to five lemmings a day, or approximately 1,600 lemmings in a year!