Snowy Owl

Location: Barrow, AK

Camera Host: Owl Research Institute

Find more about Weather in Barrow, AK

August 28, 2014

Owl Research Institute Team Make Their Final Visit

The Owl Research Institute team visited the Snowy Owl nest for the final time. They packed up the gear and collected the pellets from the nest for analysis. 

August 27, 2014

Owl Research Institute Completing Surveys

During a visit monitoring the progress of the growth of the Snowy Owl chicks across the tundra in Barrow the Owl Research Institute scientists took a video- to view the video click 'More...'. They explain "this feisty Snowy owl chick is showcasing classic owl defense techniques - bill clacking, spreading its wings as to appear larger, etc. Not quite as intimidating as getting dive-bombed by a parent" More...

August 24, 2014

Researcher Dive-bombed by Adult Snowy Owl

The Owl Research Institute recently posted an amazing video- to view the video click 'More...'. They explain: "Snowy owls are great defenders of their nests. While both sexes will defend the nest area, males are typically the first line of defense and more aggressive. Females are more likely to perform distraction displays by faking wing injury, barking, etc. Also, not all Snowy Owls defend their nests with the same ferocity. How do you think this male ranks in defending his chicks from our field biologists?" More...

July 25, 2014

Denver Visits Nest Site for Q&A

On one of the sunniest days we have seen in Barrow, Alaska on the Snowy Owl cam, Denver Holt of the Owl Research Institute joins us at the Snowy Owl nest site to tell us more about the Nomadic Tundra Ghost. Unfortunately the audio equipment did not work so we typed answers into the cam comments feed; viewers in the disqus comments and via Twitter submitted questions. In case you missed the Q&A session click 'More...' for a recap. More...

July 23, 2014

Male Parent Delivers Lemming to Owlet, Female Parent Looks On

Once the young leave the nest when they are about 25 days old, they are fed entirely by the parents for at least another five weeks. Here we see the almost entirely white male delivering a lemming. After around 5 weeks after leaving the nest the young can begin to hunt for themselves. They are probably partly fed for at least another week or two while they are still poor at hunting. As you can see this owlet still has some grey downy feathers. Spending a month on the ground close to the nest, their appearance changes quickly. Plumage around the eyes and beak turns lighter. Black and white speckled wing covert feathers become noticeable. You can see these feathers when the owlet stretches its wings. Flight and tail feathers grow daily. By the time they are six weeks old, the young start looking like adults with black speckles and some remaining downy plumage, mainly on the head. The tail feathers take longer to develop than the flight feathers. Once these are developed the young should be able to start flying.  

July 23, 2014

Flapping and Hopping

When the young first depart the nest they still have their downy feathers. They spend a month on the ground close to the nest, during which time their appearance changes quickly. Flight and tail feathers grow daily. The tail feathers take longer to develop than the flight feathers. Once these are developed the young should be able to start flying. Snowy Owls are able to lift off the ground about three weeks after departing the nest. They spend several days jumping around. Most fledglings are 6–7 weeks old before they make their first real flight. 

August 28

Owl Research Institute Team Make Their Final Visit

The Owl Research Institute team visited the Snowy Owl nest for the final time. They packed up the gear and collected the pellets from the nest for analysis. 

August 10

Update on Two Remaining Snowy Owl Chicks

Here's a brief update on the two remaining Snowy Owl chicks from biologist, Matt Larson: "I finally found the chicks on 10 Aug 2014, they hadn't been seen since 25 July. They moved almost a mile out towards the coast and were roosting in the bluffs. The female was nearby and was still pretty attentive. Male was roosting closer to the nest, but did vocalize and fly in when I was walking out towards chicks. The two chicks were 55 and 53 days old respectively and both are flying very well and wouldn't let me get closer than a couple hundred meters before flushing and flying long distances." More...

Snowy Owl


Nest Placement

It is thought that the male selects the territory, and the female chooses the nest site within the territory. Snowy owls nest right on the tundra. They prefer slight, windswept rises that will be dry and blown free of snow.

Nest Description

The Snowy Owl female builds the nest, scraping out a shallow hollow on the bare ground and shaping it by pressing her body into the depression. The process takes a few days, and the owls may reuse the nest site for many years.

Clutch Size

3-11 eggs

Incubation Period

32-32 days

Nestling Period

18-25 days

Egg Description


Condition at Hatching

Wet and blind (eyes usually open by day 5); within hours a Snowy Owl hatchling is a little white fluff ball of downy feathers.



Snowy Owls mainly eat small mammals, particularly lemmings, which at times on the tundra may be all these birds eat. Sometimes they’ll switch to ptarmigan and waterfowl. Snowy Owls are also one of the most agile owls, able to catch small birds on the fly. On both their breeding and wintering grounds, their diet can range widely to include rodents, rabbits, hares, squirrels, weasels, wading birds, seabirds, ducks, grebes, and geese.

Typical Voice

In defense, Snowy Owls will hoot, whistle, and hiss.more sounds

See full Species Info at All About Birds

About the Snowy Owls

Snowy Owls are large owls that breed in open terrain from near tree line to the edge of polar seas, wintering regularly south to the northern United States and sporadically beyond. A nomadic species and often-unpredictable migrant, its movements are thought to relate to the variable abundance of its main prey species, lemmings. You can tell male and female Snowy Owls apart by looking at their plumage: males are often whitest and lack the dusky blackish-brown barring and spots that adorn the females’ plumage.

The history of this particular pair is unknown. We do not know if they have bred together previously or if they have used this nesting site before. Seven eggs were laid at this nest around mid-May and began hatching in mid-June. Only females incubate the eggs and care for the young. Males provide food to the female during the nest period. Males also defend the chicks from predators. Scientists believe that the territory of this pair is fairly small and report that the male is usually within about 500 yards of the nest, balancing foraging with nest defense.

Snowy Owls differ from most owls by being active throughout the day. They hunt in all weather during the continuous light of Arctic summer preying on rodents like lemmings and voles, at times consuming more than 1,600 lemmings a year! They will also eat birds (ranging from small songbird nestlings to medium-sized geese), rabbits, and other small mammals; and even fish and other small aquatic animals. In 2014, the owls have been eating a lot of birds, which is good evidence that lemming populations are moderate at best in this area.

About the Nest

The nest is located in Barrow, Alaska, and is part of the Owl Research Institute’s 22-year study on the breeding ecology of Snowy Owls and brown lemmings. With 24 hours of sunlight in the Arctic when the owls raise their young, you can tune in any time day or night to watch the nest. The nest is on the ground, atop mounds that are 1-3 feet high on the Arctic tundra. This year there are at least 20 nests in an area of about 100 square miles.


Thanks to our partners the Owl Research Institute and

More questions about the Snowy Owls? Check our Snowy Owl Cam FAQ page.